Gżira United will not take anything for granted when they face Sta Lucia in the IZIBET FA Trophy quarter-final at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Monday (kick-off: 7pm).
Led by the only Maltese coach in the final eight of this competition, Darren Abdilla’s Gżira are looking to add to their sole FA Trophy success of the 1972-73 season.
For coach Abdilla, this is a pivotal moment in their season as they are just three points away from the European zone – occupied by Birkirkara – and they are on course for a cup success, which would guarantee them European football as well.
This comes despite Gżira’s squad having been hit by a number of injuries to key players including Ricardo Correa, Jackson Mendoza, Thiago Espindola and Maxuell.
“At the start of this season, we had set particular targets, but our campaign took a different turn and therefore we had to adapt to the situation,” Abdilla pointed out.
“Despite the injuries that we had, I still believe in my team and managing to be in this position in the business end of the season feels like a sporting miracle.”
Since Sta Lucia clinched top-flight promotion in 2019, they have never lost in five encounters against the Maroons. They registered four draws and a 2-1 victory back in January 2020.
“Sta Lucia are a team that have been investing cleverly in recent years,” Abdilla said.
“It’s true that they are our bogey team and we are striving to secure our first win against them at the right moment.”
Six wins in the last 11 games, including progressing two rounds in the FA Trophy, reflect Sta Lucia’s change in fortunes since highly-experienced coach Giovanni Tedesco took over in January.
Sta Lucia are playing their third and final round of the Premier League in the Play-Out section but their momentum suggests that they might manage to secure top-flight status for another year.
Club president Robert Micallef has been investing in this club, as assistant coach Brian Chetcuti pointed out, with the target of taking Sta Lucia a step further.
“Despite having a difficult season, the president continued to believe in this project including appointing a new coach during the season,” Chetcuti said.
“In the recent games, our mentality has been different – we treat every game as a final and that is helping us.”
While Santa Lucia’s priority is to salvage their Premier League position, one cannot rule out a Tedesco’s side from causing an upset in this competition.
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