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Marcolini wants team to maintain positive approach against Slovenia

Malta national teams’ head coach Michele Marcolini has urged his players to maintain their positive approach when they face Slovenia in an international friendly at the National Stadium on Thursday (kick-off: 7pm).

It has been more than four months since the national team has been in action. Their last outing was their Euro 2024 final qualifier against England at Wembley Stadium on November 17, where the team produced an encouraging performance in a 2-0 defeat.

Speaking to the media, on Wednesday, Marcolini said that he is approaching this doubleheader, which also sees the national team facing Belarus early next week, in good spirits and hopes the team can continue to grow.

“It has been four months since the team has been in action but during our last performances against Ukraine at the National Stadium, and the England qualifier at Wembley Stadium, the team have performed very well.

“I am approaching these matches with a positive frame of mind and with the conviction that we could play a very good match. We are aware that we are facing a very strong Slovenian side who has book its place in this summer’s European Championship finals and no doubt will be determined to secure a very positive result.”

The Malta coach will be without two key players as midfielder Teddy Teuma is out with a calf injury while Jodi Jones has asked to skip this month’s international window as his partner is expecting a child.

“Teddy Teuma and Jodi Jones are unavailable for different reasons,” Marcolini said.

“Teddy suffered a calf injury with his club Reims and in fact last weekend he was unavailable for his club. In recent days we tried to understand if we could have him back for the match against Belarus but after he underwent some tests we were informed that it was important to be very cautious with his recovery or else we could risk a more serious injury.

“On the other hand, Jodi Jones has asked to skip these matches as his partner is expected to give birth to a child in the coming days. In these circumstances, I like to give importance to these human situations as surely Jodi would not have been fully focused to be so distant from his family in such a sensible time.

“So we decided to leave him out and hopefully he can continue to do well with his club as this season he has been in great form.

“Obviously with these absences, there will be an opportunity for one or two players who have not been selected so much in recent months to have the opportunities to stake a claim for a place in the team. I hope to be able to use some players who have not been utilised much in recent months.”

Marcolini said that these friendly matches are a crucial part of the national team’s preparation towards their big objective this month, the UEFA Nations League, where promotion is the main objetive.

“These four friendlies will give us the opportunity to prepare in the best possible way for the UEFA Nations League where our objective is clear to everyone,” Marcolini said.

“For these two friendlies, it will be difficult to make changes to our playing style as we only had three days to prepare and in such a short span of time it’s difficult to change much. There is no doubt that in the May-June period, when we will have more time to work, we will try to introduce some new ideas.

“But in the end, I believe that the most important thing is that irrespective of the tactical plan, it’s how one faces the pressures of key matches and how one moves on the pitch.

“For me the most important thing I expect from my players is that we are very positive in our style of play and try to show a winning mentality.”

Turning his sights on Slovenia, Marcolini has described the team as a very solid outfit but admitted that the main danger will come from their star forward Benjamin Sesko.

“Slovenia are a very good team who have won their right to compete at the European Championship finals,” Marcolini said.

“Slovenia are a physical and compact team. They like to alternate their style of play as sometimes they build their attacks from the back or are direct. They are a major threat through their wingers and boast players with great technique.

“In this moment, their forward Sesko is the man of the moment as he is doing very well with his Bundesliga club Leipzig. He has managed to become a key figure for the team and has scored some important goals.

“Slovenia will be a great challenge for us and it will be important that we make the most of those areas of the pitch where we can hurt.

“We will do our best to give them a good run for their money.”

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