Birkirkara and Hibernians will be looking to bounce back from a difficult week when they go head-to-head in the BOV Premier League at the National Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kick-off: 3pm).
The Stripes come into Saturday’s clash on the back of a disappointing week which saw them pick just one point from their last two matches, after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Floriana before being pegged back at the death by Valletta for a 1-1 draw in midweek.
On the other hand, Hibernians also saw their unbeaten start come to an end this week when they were beaten by Floriana 2-0, a loss that left them three points adrift of the Greens and Ħamrun Spartans who are currently sharing the top spot.
Branko Nisevic, the Hibernians coach, said that he expects a strong response from his players as they look to head into the international break on a positive note.
“I’m expecting another tough match for us against a Birkirkara team who are one of the favourites to challenge for the main honours and a place in European football,” the Serbian coach said.
“Both teams come into the match determined to bounce back from poor results so it all depends on how the players react on the day. Unfortunately, we still have a couple of important players missing but we need to try and do the best that we can.”
In midweek, Hibernians were outplayed by an in-form Floriana team and Nisevic said that he hopes his players are able to control the match against Birkirkara, something they failed against the Greens.
“When we are facing teams like Floriana, who base their game on pace, we cannot afford to base our game on counter-attacking. The nature of our team is not to outpace our opponents but to take control of the match and build patiently from the back. So it’s imperative that against Birkirkara we try and dictate the game’s tempo,” the former Ħamrun Spartans coach said.
“But one also has to remember that we are still a work in progress. If you compare this Hibs team with the one of last
season, we only have five or six players still there so we need to give time to the new players to find their feet.
“This is going to be a great test of character for the players who need to show me their desire and will to play better than they did in midweek. This team has far more potential and everyone needs to continue to work harder to reach our peak condition.”
On his part, Giovanni Tedesco, the Birkirkara coach, said that he wants to see a strong response from his players after the club’s recent struggles.
“We need to provide the right response, most importantly to ourselves. A win would be a huge lift to all the team so that we start gaining a bit of confidence. Every member of our team, from the coaching staff to the players, must look at themselves and see how we can do better,” the Italian coach said.
“Against Floriana our performance was unacceptable. Their players showed much more desire to win than us and they deserved to win.
“But against Valletta, I saw a lot of desire from the players to put things right and we were unlucky not to take the three points. We had chances to close out the match but failed to take it and it’s normal in football to end up getting punished.”
The Birkirkara coach said that given the competitive nature of this season’s Premier League, no team can afford to drop points and that is why he is demanding all three points today.
“In football, the team that shows more desire to win is the one that is most successful,” Tedesco said.
“The Premier League this year is very balanced, as apart from Ħamrun Spartans, who again look to be the team to beat, the others can battle against each other. Therefore we can’t afford to throw away matches if we are to remain in the race to challenge for a top position,” he said.
“Hibernians are a team that is led by a great coach who last season led Ħamrun Spartans to the Premier League title and have a good crop of players that provide a solid foundation to the team. Like us, they changed a lot of players so there are a lot of similarities between the two teams.
“I expect a very close match and in the end the team that will show the bigger desire will win it, it’s as simple as that.”
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