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Coach Marcolini to give playing time to fringe players in Luxembourg friendly

Michele Marcolini has hinted he will bring in some fringe players as the Malta national team steps up its preparation for this month’s Euro 2024 doubleheader against England and Ukraine when they face Luxembourg on Friday night (kick-off: 8.15pm).

The match at the Luxembourg Stadium is the team’s final test ahead of next week’s highly-anticipated home clash against Gareth Southgate’s England and the Malta national teams’ head coach is hopeful to receive some positive signs from his players against Luxembourg.

During the past weeks, Marcolini had the opportunity to work with a squad of players who took part in a camp at Ta’ Qali, and hopes that he will be able to see some of the work being carried out on the training pitch against Luxembourg.

“I am very happy with the training camp I had with my players during the past few weeks,” Marcolini told the Times of Malta.

“We are now in a very particular period where the players returned to the training just two weeks after the end of the national championship.

“We couldn’t put a lot of pressure on the players as we are aware that they are physically and mentally very tired. But at the same time, we had the chance to carry out some work to try and prepare in the best possible way for the upcoming qualifiers against England and Ukraine and the friendly against Luxembourg.

“I gave a lot of importance to both the physical and tactical aspects and I am very satisfied by the application shown by my players during this period.”

Although tonight’s match against Luxembourg is a friendly, Marcolini said that he is approaching this match as if it was a Euro qualifier and wants his players to go out and try and win the match.

“This is the first official match that we are playing after more than a month from the end of the league championship,” Marcolini said.

“During this time we had some matches between us but obviously playing an official match is completely different.

“For us, this match could be very important to try and find a good balance to try and prepares as best as possible for our upcoming games against England and Ukraine.

“My approach for this game is as if it was a qualifier and I hope we will go to the pitch fully determined to find a way to win.

“Maybe it will be also an opportunity to watch some new players who were not involved with the team in the recent past and hopefully they can give us some important indications.”

Marcolini said that he was impressed by Luxembourg’s progress over the years and is bracing himself for a very difficult test.

“Luxembourg are guided by a coach who has been in charge for the past ten years so there is a lot of consistency in how they play,” he said.

“They boast of some quality players and I like how they interpret and play the game. They are a team who likes to attack with many players so we have to be always focused as they can be very dangerous.

“I just hope that they will give some space to operate on our quick transitions to try and cause them some danger.”

Missing from tonight’s friendly are two key players for Malta as defender Enrico Pepe and midfielder Teddy Teuma failed to make the trip to Luxembourg due to injury.

Marcolini said that Pepe is out of this month’s international window as he has not made enough progress in his rehabilitation while the Malta coach must still see whether Teuma will be fit enough to be involved in the Euro qualifiers against England and Ukraine.

“Enrico Pepe unfortunately will not be involved in these matches,” Marcolini said.

“He failed to fully recover from his injury so we had to leave him out. He is getting better and better but he is not ready to play.

“On the other hand, Teddy Teuma was injured in his club’s final match of the season. We are still waiting to understand the severity of his injury but we are hopeful that he could be involved in the matches against England or Ukraine.

“We just need to evaluate his condition day by day.”

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