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Tedesco urges Birkirkara to ‘go for it’ in Maribor return leg

Birkirkara players go through the paces ahead of the return leg against Maribor in the UEFA Conference League. Photo: Birkirkara FC

Gżira United face tough trip to Glentoran

Birkirkara and Gżira United will be bidding to join Ħamrun Spartans and Balzan in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League when they face Slovenian giants NK Maribor and former Northern Ireland champions Glentoran on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Balzan progressed to the second qualifying round after they saw their three-goal lead attained in Slovenia last week wiped away by Domzale to take the game into extra time before Andre Prates won the tie for the Maltese side with a crucial goal in extra time.

On the other hand, Ħamrun Spartans were knocked out of the Champions League by Israeli giants Maccabi Haifa and will drop to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.

Birkirkara are expecting another very challenging tie against Maribor but the Stripes will be heartened by their battling display in last week’s first leg that saw the team gain a precious 1-1 draw in Slovenia.

Paul Mbong had given last year’s FA Trophy winners the lead with a spectacular strike but Birkirkara’s hopes of a victory were shattered when Finnish referee Mohammed Al-Emara awarded the hosts a highly-controversial penalty that earned Maribor a 1-1 draw.

Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco was heartened by his team’s performance in Slovenia but is under no illusion of the difficult task awaiting his team today.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match for us,” Tedesco told the Times of Malta.

“Maribor are a very tough side to play against and added to that there will be a few variants that will make the match even more complicated. We are going to play in very hot and humid conditions so it’s not going to be easy.

“Last week, I felt the team deserved more. The final result in Slovenia was influenced not only by the controversial penalty award by the referee but also by the way he administered the match.

“At the end of the match, I approached the referee and asked him to show respect for my team as his officiating was not acceptable.”

Tedesco’s confrontation with the Finnish referee proved costly for the Italian coach who has been handed a one-match ban by UEFA after he was shown a red card by Al-Emara, with Brian Spiteri set to lead the team from the dug-out.

The Italian coach said that his team should use all the frustrations and convert them into desire and determination to try and progress to the next round.

“Last week’s match we were frustrated by how we were treated, but that is in the past,” Tedesco said.

“We should use all that disappointment and frustration to motivate ourselves and try and progress to the next round. I was very pleased with the personality and character shown by the players during the match.

“One thing that we need to improve on is how we make use of the ball. I felt that we could have played the ball better when in possession.”

Asked if he is set to change his team’s style of play tomorrow, Tedesco said: “We are going to be a different team.

“My plan is to win the match and to do that we need to attack. There will be some tactical changes as we want to go for it.”

Tedesco is boosted to have all his squad available as Brazilian striker Maxuell Maia has recovered to full fitness and is in contention to play part of the match after missing the game in Slovenia.

On the other hand, Gżira United will be hopeful of upsetting Glentoran in the return leg in Northern Ireland.

The Maroons produced a positive display in last week’s first leg at the Centenary Stadium as the Maltese side created several scoring chances but could not go beyond a 2-2 draw.

No doubt, coach Darren Abdilla will be hopeful his team show better defensive organisation to try and not concede any goals but more importantly try and be more ruthless when pushing forward.

In fact, their downfall last week was their failure to take the chances that came their way and that proved costly as Glentoran managed to return home with a precious 2-2 draw.

Darren Abdilla is boosted by the return of defender Zach Scerri who missed last week’s first leg with a one-match ban.


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