Coach of the Year nominee Tedesco expecting tough clash
This season’s BOV Premier League may have been dominated by Ħamrun Spartans, but the most enticing battle has been for the ensuing places, more specifically those that would ensure qualification for European competition.
Birkirkara confirmed their spot by placing second and Gzira United secured third place. However, with the former still in the running for the FA Trophy, after Gzira lost to Marsaxlokk on penalties on Tuesday, fourth place looks just as attractive. In spite of this, Mosta, who finished their league campaign level on 46 points with Hibernians and Balzan, will be unable to make use of this position due to direct encounter results. However, they do still have a chance at European football through the path of the FA Trophy.
Facing Birkirkara on Wednesday (kick-off: 7PM), Mosta will be aiming to take the win and progress to this season’s final and cap a fantastic season that technical director Mario Muscat believes could be the most consistent the Blues have ever been.
“We’ve had a very positive season – undoubtedly one of the best seasons the club has had in the past years,” Muscat told the Times of Malta.
“Obviously, we’re a bit disappointed that we couldn’t reach our target of an automatic berth to European qualifiers, but we still have this semi-final and we have to give everything to try and reach our goal.”
Muscat stressed the importance of Wednesday’s clash with the Stripes, calling it one of the most important matches in the club’s history as they are ‘90 minutes away from a historic final’.
“We have two motivations for the match – a spot in Europe, and the first-ever major trophy in Maltese football,” Muscat explained.
“We have no pressure on ourselves – that’s a positive thing for us. We know that we’ll be playing against a team that has been one of the best in recent months. Everybody knows how consistent Birkirkara have been, at least since January, and that they too want to win the Trophy. So, I would imagine it will be a tough but interesting fixture where the one with the least mistakes takes the win.
Mosta have beaten Birkirkara once and drawn in the other matchup this season. While Muscat believes this emphasises how positive a season his team has had, the FA Trophy is a completely different game.
While the team has been operating consistently as a team, forward Zachary Brincat has shone this season and Muscat hopes the 24-year-old will keep doing the same, particularly on Wednesday.
“Zach (Brincat) is one of the players we really believed in the past three seasons and this year, he has been very consistent- both in his goals, as well as his performances. He is very important to us and hopefully, he can help us reach our target,” Muscat explained.
“The only disappointment with Zach has been the fact that he was not considered for the National Team because I believe he has the qualities to even play as a Malta international.”
On Wednesday, Brincat will be one of Mosta’s “fully available” squad as Mosta is said to have recovered all of their injured players, as well as their suspensions.
“There might be a few changes to the squad seeing as we might have three matches in seven days after having played on Friday,” Muscat admitted.
“We have a deep enough squad to pick from so the final decision will take place on the basis of who’s fresher.”
Coppola, Nava out injured
On the other hand, runners-up Birkirkara have also succeeded in finishing their most successful league campaign in the past nine years.
Under coach Giovanni Tedesco, the Stripes have managed to secure European football and are in contention for a trophy after eliminating newly crowned champions Ħamrun.
“This season has been a great job from the president, the committee, players, and the coaching staff,” Tedesco said, “We’ve achieved a lot even though we have had to change a lot and that’s not easy.”
Asked about Wednesday’s fixture, the Italian coach heaped praise on his opponents.
“One must applaud Mosta’s team and coaches for the season that they’ve had. I’m expecting a difficult match against a good team – It’s going to be 50-50, I’m sure,” he explained.
Italian duo Alessandro Coppola and Giacomo Nava will be out injured, but Tedesco believes his side has what it takes, nonetheless. One element which gives hope will be midfielder Yannick Yankam, a Malta international now nominated for the MFA’s Player of the Year award. A nominee himself – for the Best Coach award – Tedesco believes that while the young midfielder has made great strides, he has bigger waves to make.
“(Yankam) is a strong player, and he can even get better, he’s still very young. He’s had a great season and even played for the National Team against Italy. I’m very happy for him,” Tedesco said.
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