Gżira United face their biggest test in this season’s UEFA Conference League when they face Viktoria Plzen in the third qualifying round, first leg tie in the Czech Republic on Thursday (kick-off: 7pm).
Reaching the third qualifying round of the Conference League is already a stunning result for a Gżira United side who came into this season’s European adventure without eight key players from last term.
But despite having a squad limited in numbers they still managed to knock out Northern Ireland’s Glentoran and Dudelange, of Luxembourg.
Facing a strong outfit such as Viktoria Plzen, who played in the group stages of the Champions League last season, seems to be an impossible task for Gżira United, but Darren Abdilla said that his players are ready to give it their best shot.
“Viktoria Plzen is a powerhouse not only in the Czech Republic but also in Europe,” Abdilla told the Times of Malta.
“I think when one considers that a year ago they played against Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter in the UEFA Champions League group stages it is testament of the strength of this outfit. It’s going to be difficult, yes, but the most important thing for us is to try and keep the tie open ahead of next week’s second leg.
“Unfortunately, the schedule of fixtures made it tougher for us. Having to play the first leg away from home meant we would lose one day of training due to travel and the players would have less time to recover. In fact, after the Dudelange match we only had three days of preparation and we were back on the travel.
“But having said that we are still optimistic that we can give them a good run for their money. Looking at our performances in Europe so far fills us with a lot of courage so we will give it a good go.”
Abdilla described Viktoria Plzen as a very complete team.
“Viktoria Plzen come into this tie in very good physical condition as apart from their European commitments they have already played three league matches,” Abdilla said.
“They are a very physical side who play some aggressive football and who like to dominate possession. They have a towering forward who is very good. From the matches that I saw, they seem a team of a different level to us.
“But we too have been boosted by some additions in the past few days as Luis Riascos is finally back with the squad after missing all our matches in Europe so far. He is still not 100 per cent match fit but he will be a great addition to have in our squad.
“On the other hand, Gabriel Mentz has recovered full fitness and is in line to make his first start this summer.
“As I said it’s a very difficult test for us but we have no intention of throwing in the towel. I expect the players to take the pitch with a positive attitude and hopefully, we can return home with a positive result.”
Abdilla will surely have to make one change from the team that beat Dudelange last week as striker Lucas Macula must serve a one-match ban.
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