Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco has urged his players to show more consistency as his side look to put behind them an unconvincing start when they face third-placed Marsaxlokk at the Centenary Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 2pm).
The Stripes have so far blown hot and cold in this season’s Premier League, dropping valuable points that have seen them slip away from the league pacesetters.
Last weekend, the Stripes managed to put their campaign back on track with a commanding 3-0 win over neighbouring rivals Balzan.
Now coach Tedesco is asking for his team to build on that performance and start showing the same kind of consistency that saw them finish second in the Premier League and win the FA Trophy.
“What I am seeking from my team is to show consistency in their play,” Tedesco told the Times of Malta.
“This season, we have had mixed performances, playing well against Sliema Wanderers, Valletta, and Hibernians but we could not back up those displays and ended up slipping up against Floriana and Mosta and that was very disappointing.
“I am not happy with how the team has performed in the last few weeks and I am looking for my team to repeat all the positive things we showed against Balzan last week. We are facing a Marsaxlokk team that has enjoyed a great start to the season and it will be a great test for us to see if we are capable of performing at the same high level week in and week out.
“If you look at this year’s championship, apart from Ħamrun Spartans, who seem to be the most consistent side, all the other sides have dropped points on the way and that is why it is important that we continue to pick up points each week to ensure we can challenge for the top positions.”
Tedesco has no selection problems for Saturday’s match and said that one reason behind the Stripes’ inconsistent start to the campaign could be that the success achieved by the team last year may have resulted in some sort of complacency from his players.
“Last year we had a great year and maybe after the success of finishing second and winning the FA Trophy, the hunger for success is not the same this year,” Tedesco said.
“In football, if you don’t work hard and run for the whole 90 minutes you cannot achieve results, irrespective of whether you are a great club like Birkirkara or not. This summer we have also lost some key players and unless we rediscover that winning mentality we will struggle to compete.
“Against Balzan I saw encouraging signs and now it’s important to build on that display.”
On their part, Marsaxlokk have enjoyed a fine start to the season and are currently third in the standings. However, the team comes into this match on the back of two damaging defeats at the hands of Valletta and Mosta and coach Winston Muscat expects a bold response from his players.
“All the players and the coaching staff are hurting after these two defeats,” Muscat said.
“There is great determination from everyone to bounce back. Football can be very harsh sometimes as despite putting up good displays, you end up finishing on the losing end. We have analysed what we could have done better in the last two matches and hopefully, we can make amendments this weekend.
“We are expecting a very tough battle against a Birkirkara team who are full of quality players. They won the FA Trophy last season and last week they put on a strong showing when brushing aside Balzan so they will be on a high.
“But we need to look at ourselves and ensure that we produce the best possible display and battle as hard as we can to take all three points.”
Muscat said that one reason for his team’s defeats to Mosta and Valletta in recent weeks might have been the fact that they underestimated their opponents in key moments of the match and ended up being punished.
“If you look at our statistics during matches, we are a team who enjoys long spells of possession, and maybe mentally, the players feel that they are well on top and they can relax and that proved to be fatal for us,” Muscat said.
“Against Mosta in particular, we were very sloppy at the back and we conceded goals that we should have never had. Now it’s important that we regroup and show the same passion and commitment shown in the opening matches so we can get back on track.”
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