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Luciano Zauri tells Ħamrun Spartans players to prove their worth against Maccabi Haifa

Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri speaks to his players during training. Photo: Hamrun Spartans FC

Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri wants his players to show their real character as the Malta champions face Maccabi Haifa in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round clash in Haifa on Tuesday evening (kick-off: 7pm).

With the qualification issue all but decided, after Maccabi’s 4-0 win at the Centenary Stadium last week, the Spartans will be looking to try and restore some pride after the tough defeat suffered in the first leg.

Coach Zauri admitted that the team’s chances of qualification are very remote and he was disappointed mostly because the final scoreline did not fully reflect how the match developed last Tuesday and hopes his players can show the right character and show they are far a better team than the result shows.

“Losing 4-0 was surely not a good result for us,” Zauri told the Times of Malta.

“In my opinion, the final result did not reflect well how the match was played but at the end of the day you must accept as that was the verdict of the pitch.

“The spirit in our squad is always very positive. We are aware what we have done well and where we need to improve and have worked hard to improve on that.

“Ħamrun Spartans are a good side but you can’t compare it to Maccabi Haifa who have been playing in the group stages of the Champions League for several years.

“But we will take the pitch determined to try and play all our chances, whatever they are, but most importantly play the match with great character and see what happens.”

The Ħamrun coach said that last week’s final 4-0 scoreline has dampened what in his view was a very strong performance from his team in the first part of the match but admitted that his team needs to take the chances that come their way.

“The morale in our squad is very good,” he said.

“If you analyse our performance last week from a statistical point of view, we had 12 shots at goal and failed to score while Maccabi had six and netted four, and in the end that made the whole difference.

“I reiterate that Maccabi are a very strong side but I can not mention the great performance of my team in the first half, which unfortunately went unnoticed by the final scoreline. And it’s important that we play at those same levels.”

Goalkeeper Henry Bonello is out of the match as he is continuing his rehabilitation from a hand injury but striker Seth Paintsil, who was an unused substitute in the first leg due to a muscle problem, has recovered full fitness and is available for selection.

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