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Zauri says Spartans face tough test against Tbilisi

Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri speaks to his players during training.

Ħamrun Spartans face another tough test in their European journey when they host Dinamo Tbilisi, in the opening leg of the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League on Tuesday at the National Stadium (kick-off: 8pm).

The Malta champions were handed a very tough draw in this season’s UEFA competitions.

After facing an arduous tie against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League first qualifying round, they have now found themselves facing Georgia’s Dinamo Tbilisi who were a whisker away from knocking out Kazakhstan’s Astana from UEFA’s elite competition.

Despite their elimination against Maccabi Haifa, the Spartans showed a lot of promise against the Israeli side who are of a different level to the Maltese side and this has instilled a lot of encouragement in the players and coach Luciano Zauri ahead of tonight’s first leg.

“Dinamo Tbilisi are a very strong team, maybe not of the same level as Maccabi Haifa, but still possesses some very interesting elements so we need to be ready,” Zauri told the Times of Malta.

“I am expecting a very tough match against a team that has already shown in the previous round that can be very dangerous. But I am very hopeful that following our performances against Maccabi Haifa we will be able to put on a good show.”

Asked to give some ideas on the style of play of their Georgian opponents, Zauri said: “Dinamo Tbilisi are a team who really like to play attacking football.

“They like to play the ball from the back and like to construct their attacks very methodically. Looking at their squad, they have some excellent emerging talent and are quite strong in every department. They are a very organised side so it’s not going to be easy to break them down but we will try to exploit any weaknesses they might have.”

Zauri said that despite bowing out to Maccabi in the Champions League there were still a lot of positives to take ahead of this tie against Tbilisi.

“We may have lost against Maccabi, who were obviously superior to us, but our performance in the first half of the first leg was something that I was really impressed and I hope we can repeat those levels of performance against Tbilisi,” the Italian coach said.

“In the second leg, we had to be more offensive and we managed to find a goal to go ahead, but then all the qualities of Maccabi came to the fore and we ended up losing the match.

“But I am very proud of my players who gave everything they had against a very good side.

“Our approach will be the same on Tuesday. We are a team who likes to play good football and win football matches.

“If we manage to do that we could have a say in this match. We have some brilliant individual players and I hope they can make the difference so the team can give our loyal fans a great night.”

The Ħamrun Spartans coach is still without goalkeeper Henry Bonello who is recovering from his hand injury but otherwise has a full squad available with Brazilian midfielder Elionay and striker Seth Paintsil declared fully fit for the match.

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