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Balzan ready for physical challenge against Grodno in UEFA Conference League

Balzan face Neman Grodno, of Belarus, in the Conference League today.

Balzan FC are bracing themselves for a very physical test when they face FC Neman Grodno, of Belarus, in the opening leg of the UEFA Conference League second qualifying round.

Wednesday’s match is being played in the Hungarian city of Gyor since Belarus is unable to host international matches due to the country’s involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Reds are on a high after they upset Slovenian side Domzale in the previous round, but coach Oliver Spiteri is under no illusion that his team is set for another mammoth task awaiting them against the team from Belarus.

“It’s going to be another difficult match for us,” Spiteri said.

“Teams who are at this stage of the competition are very well equipped and we will need to be ready for the match. We are facing a team who plays a completely different style of play to Domzale, and added to that they are far more physically fit than us since they have already played 14 matches in the Belarus championship.

“Their style of play is similar to the British school as they tend to play a lot through their flanks and send aerial balls for their physically imposing forwards, so it’s going to be a great challenge.”

Balzan will be without Brazilian defender Andres Prates who must serve a one-match ban after his red card in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Domzale that still earned the team a place in the next round.

Spiteri said that qualification to the second qualifying round has given a lot of belief to his players but they are hungry for more and would love to reach the next round of the competition.

“We have knocked out a quality team in Domzale,” Spiteri said.

“That result has given a significant boost to all the squad. We are approaching this match without any pressure as again we are the underdogs and nobody is expecting us to progress.

“But I would be lying if I said that we will not try to extend our European journey. We believe that our squad has a lot of potential, as we showed against Domzale. We have some individual players who can make a difference and hopefully, they will leave their mark in the first leg.

“Our approach to the match will be very simple, to try and get a valuable result that will leave the qualification open for next week’s second leg in Malta. But to do that we need to be very aggressive and not let our opponents impose themselves in the match.

“I want my players to approach the match with no fear and make sure we show a high level of tactical organisation. If we repeat what we have worked on during training and remain compact as a team we can spring another surprise.”

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