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Hibs and Floriana looking to defy odds

Floriana face Northern Ireland side Linfield. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Hibernians and Floriana have their eyes firmly set of upsetting the odds when they face Linfield and Fehervar, respectively, in the second qualifying round of the Europa League this evening. 

The Paolites have a tough task on their hands as they take on Hungarian giants at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 7pm).

Fehervar are one of the most successful sides in Hungarian football and boast a great European record, which included an appearance in the 1985 UEFA Cup final where they lost to Real Madrid 4-0 on aggregate.

The Hungarian side’s build-up for this evening’s tie was disrupted by COVID-19 as a member of the first-team squad tested positive on Sunday and did not make the trip while first team coach Gabor Marton still made the trip despite returning a dubious result on Sunday.

At their arrival at the Malta International Airport, the Hungarians were forced to undergo a new swab test before they could continue with their schedule ahead of today’s match. 

Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra is fully aware of the difficult task awaiting his team this evening but said that he still believes that his team are capable of causing an upset.

“When you reach the second qualifying round of a UEFA competition, it’s normal that you are pitted against very strong sides,” the Italian told the Times of Malta.

“Fehervar are one of the strongest teams in the country and boast international players of Hungary, Bosnia and Macedonia, just to name a few, so that says a lot of their pedigree.

“We had the same scenario in the first qualifying round against Vaduz, but we still managed to defy the odds and grabbed an unlikely victory. At the end of the day the tie is decided in 90 minutes and anything can happen.

“For us it will be important to follow our tactical game plan and play with a lot of heart and make sure to stay in the match for as long as possible. We have no plan to take a defensive approach, we will play our usual 

4-3-3 formation and hopefully that will be enough to continue our European adventure.”

Sanderra is boosted by the return from suspension of defender Ferdinando Apap but midfielder Bjorn Kristensen is out after seeing red in the 2-0 win over FC Vaduz in the previous round.

Floriana arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday morning with a positive mindset even though they take the field as the underdogs tonight (kick-off: 20.45). 

Floriana started their European campaign against CFR Cluj in the Champions League and despite putting up a spirited showing, they still went down 2-0 to the Romanian champions at the Centenary Stadium. 

However, that defeat still had a positive effect on the Floriana clan as in the words of coach Enzo Potenza, it has injected much-needed self-confidence in their ability and they are confident that they can see off the Northern Irish and reach the next round of the competition.

“I can assure everyone that we are not going to Belfast for a holiday but to get a job done,” Potenza told the Times of Malta.

“We will take the pitch determined to follow our game plan with a balanced approach at both ends of the pitch and try to make the most of the space that our opponents will leave for us.

“Our performance against CFR Cluj in the Champions League has provided us with much-needed self-belief and now it’s the time to show that we deserve to be in Europe.”

Potenza upbeat

Potenza described the British side as an experienced team in European football but firmly believes that the Greens are more than capable of getting a result. 

“Linfield are a typical British side who are very strong in the air but also have players who can play good football, so they are quite complete as a team,” Potenza said.

“They are a club who have 54 titles to their name, so they have enjoyed a lot of success. But I still believe that they are well within our reach and I firmly believe that we can get the result needed to go through.

“Since the match against Cluj we are in a far better physical condition, with key players such as Kristijan Keqi, Diego Silva and Thiago Fonseca who are close to full fitness and surely they can help us underline our potential.”

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