Zammit urges Stripes to keep tactical shape
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit believes good tactical organisation will enhance his team’s chances of a positive result from their home clash with Macedonia’s FK Metalurg Skopje in the first qualifying round of the Europa League at the Hibs Stadium today (kick-off 7 p.m.).
“Metalurg Skopje have many strong points but we’re focusing on our strengths for this match,” Zammit said.
“Tactical discipline is key in these type of games as in international football, if you make mistakes, you get punished.
“As we’re playing the first match at home, the result here carries a lot of weight.
“As far as our chances are concerned, I think that if we perform to the top of our abilities and keep tactical shape, we can compete.”
Zammit has mixed feelings about his team’s preparations for their European commitments but praised his players for their approach in training.
“One of the difficulties we always encounter is not related to the nature of our preparations but because the time between the end of the season and pre-season is very short, the squad is not complete,” Zammit said.
“Personally, I’d have preferred to have wider options but the circumstances didn’t allow us to do it. The club tried to strengthen the squad but it was not possible.
“Nevertheless, I want to stress that I’m very happy with the attitude of my players and I’m also pleased that we’ve introduced more youth players into the first team during the Euro Cup.”
Zammit has concerns about the fitness of Gareth Sciberras and Paul Fenech.
Sciberras is recovering from a hand injury and Fenech is still not 100 per cent fit after suffering an ankle problem during the Euro Cup match against Hibs.
On the positive side, new Brazilian signing Joselito is set to make his debut for Birkirkara this evening.
An attacking midfielder, Joselito, 21, has been added to the list of players Birkirkara sent to UEFA ahead of their participation in the Europa League.
Last season, Birkirkara, then under the charge of Patrick Curmi, succumbed to a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Albanian side Vllaznia in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.
FK Metalurg Skopje booked their Europa League place after finishing second to champions FC Vardar in the Macedonian league.
Last season, Metalurg bowed out to Bulgaria’s Lokomotiv Sofia in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, losing 3-2 away after a goalless draw at home.
Having gathered as much information about Metalurg as possible, Zammit is wary of their physical prowess.
“We have to be very careful not to get caught on the counter because this team can switch from defence to attack very quickly,” he said.
“Metalurg are strong and also very dangerous in deadball situations.”
In a bid to encourage the Stripes fans as well as neutrals to attend the game, Birkirkara yesterday announced that entrance to the Hibs Stadium will be free of charge.
Birkirkara appealed for good, responsible behaviour by their fans, reminding them that last season the club was fined €15,000 by UEFA over racist chanting against Vllaznia.
The referee of the game this evening will be Ivaylo Stoyanov, of Bulgaria.