Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri has called on his players to play a perfect match if they are to upset Georgia champions Dinamo Tbilisi and secure a stunning qualification to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.
The Malta champions arrived in Tbilisi on Tuesday to intensify their preparations for the second leg of the tie and are fully aware of the major task they have in their hands if they are to upset a strong Dinamo Tbilisi side.
The Spartans head into Thursday’s second leg in a favourable position as two goals from Joseph Mbong, the second in the last minute of stoppage time, handed the Reds a stunning 2-1 win at the National Stadium.
That result has left the Spartans needing to avoid defeat in their second leg in Tbilisi to set up a third qualifying round clash against Hungarian champions Ferencvaros or Shamrock Rovers, of Ireland.
“We are fully aware of the strength of our opponents,” coach Luciano Zauri told the Times of Malta.
“I don’t know what the perception is outside our group but despite our first-leg win we still have a tough task ahead to progress to the next round. Everyone witnessed last week how strong Dinamo Tbilisi are and I’m expecting a very stern test on Thursday.
“If we are to qualify to the third qualifying round we will need to play a great match and get a bit of help from Lady Luck, something that we didn’t get in the Champions League tie against Maccabi Haifa.
“Many times, matches are the results of key episodes during a match. We are happy with the result of the first leg but we know that we haven’t attained anything so far and the return match will be even more difficult.”
The Ħamrun Spartans coach has a full squad available for Thursday’s match in Tbilisi as Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello has recovered from his hand injury and is part of the squad for today’s match.
Zauri has told his players that they have the opportunity of attaining a huge feat for the club and is urging them to give their all.
“During last week’s match, I felt the team played a great match,” Zauri said, “We suffered when we needed to and created chances when we fell behind. The second leg is set to be another battle and we will have to play a perfect match if we are to progress to the next round.
“There is always margin for improvement after every match that we play and we have to be ready for a team like Dinamo Tbilisi who has always done very well in Europe.
“However, one has to remember that we are team that has gone through a lot of changes in pre-season but have settled down well and we are very ambitious to win the tie despite the strength of our opponent.
“All the players in the group are focused to secure a great feat for the club and our supporters who are always behind us.”
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