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Watch: San Ġiljan coach Kovacic keen to play up to favourites’ tag after Winter League success

San Ġiljan players celebrate with the Winter League trophy.

After the Winter League, what’s next for San Ġiljan? Will they be able to scale the dizzying heights of last year’s campaign?

That in a nutshell was the main talking point after Saturday’s success over Neptunes which earned San Ġiljan their ninth consecutive title.

The Saints are brimming with confidence and started this year in triumphant fashion by winning the Enemed Cup and the winter title to prolong their positive streak after completing a clean sweep of honours last summer.

Being favourites in every competition they feature in this season, San Ġiljan mentor Zeljko Kovacic is keen to play up to their favourites’ tag this summer.

San Ġiljan captain Matthew Zammit gives his thoughts after his team’s triumph in the Winter League.

However, wary about sending the wrong message to his players, Kovacic said it would be foolish to expect more titles just because they will go into the matches as favourites.

“Inevitably, San Ġiljan will start favourites. However, the favourites’ tag does not give you any cutting edge over your opponents,” he stressed.

“We cannot play as the underdogs after winning back-to-back doubles, we need to work harder.

“Everyone has the same intention and there will be a lot of difficulties this summer as others will try to dethrone us.”

“We need to start from zero and go for it as if we have never won it before,” he added.

San Ġiljan skipper Matthew Zammit echoed his coach’s sentiments, underlying the fact that it is harder to defend the title than to win it.

“It is not enough to be like last year; we need to work harder,” he explained.

Faltering rivals

As for their nearest opponents, both Neptunes and Sliema flattered to deceive despite having a good squad.

The Blues could not get going despite adding the likes of Dino Zammit and Nicky Grixti in recent years and their promising youngsters Liam Galea, Benji Cachia and Jayden Cutajar coming of age.

San Ġiljan coach Zeljko Kovacic gives his thoughts after his team’s success in the Winter League.

Sliema had their pride hurt in recent years and stumbled over too many hurdles.

The Reds were equally submissive, brought about by a coaching crisis which saw them changing their technical staff three times in the past two years after a single change in the previous 11 years when Sergey Markoch passed on the baton to Jovan Popovic.

The innovation this year is the reduction from two to one foreign player per team.

This change could, nevertheless, be beneficial to San Ġiljan with a longer squad compared to that of their opponents.

“I played in Malta with one foreigner. A single player cannot change a team, two players would have a greater impact on their team. It is going to be interesting,” Kovacic, who played for San Giljan during the 2014 season, said.

On his part, Zammit said: “I went on record saying that I am in favour of one foreigner. It will be beneficial for the local game will now have to rely on more local players groomed in their ranks.

“On the downside, the game will be much slower,” he added.

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