Ghedin to experiment with 4-3-3 against Gibraltar

Ghedin to experiment with 4-3-3 against Gibraltar

Clayton Failla (right) holds off John Mintoff during training yesterday. Photo: Paul Zammit CutajarClayton Failla (right) holds off John Mintoff during training yesterday. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar

Malta will be aiming to get their preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifiers off to a positive start this evening when they meet UEFA newcomers Gibraltar in a friendly match at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal (kick-off: 7pm).

The Maltese team certainly have more international experience than Gibraltar whose status as full UEFA members was only approved last year but the latter gained a creditable 1-1 draw away to Estonia last week after losing 2-0 against the same opposition in March.

While the Euro 2016 qualifying draw pitched Malta in Group H along with Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Norway and Azerbaijan, Gibraltar are in Group D with Germany, Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Georgia.

Pietro Ghedin, the Malta coach, is confident that this evening’s friendly will be a useful test for his team.

“Gibraltar’s 1-1 draw with Estonia was an eye-opener,” Ghedin told Times of Malta.

“They are well-prepared. We have to analyse their game against Estonia.

“This is an important test for us.

“It’s also a useful exercise for the players as we have to align our preparations with those of the clubs who are gearing up for their commitments in the Europa League, Champions League and the domestic championship.”

Having stuck with 4-2-3-1 since succeeding John Buttigieg in 2012, Ghedin is keen to experiment with new tactics after revealing his intention to switch to 4-3-3 for today’s warm-up, Malta’s second this year after their 2-0 loss away to Albania in March.

“Tactics-wise, I will try 4-3-3,” Ghedin said. “The aim is to have a dense midfield.

“I will also be evaluating other things during this friendly. I’m changing the tactical positions of some players according to their characteristics.

“I’m suitably satisfied with our work since the players reported back for training after the end of the domestic season.

“Fitness-wise, they are ok, albeit some are in better shape than others.

“Considering that they have just returned from a 20-day break, their condition is adequately good.”

Ghedin is expected to hand a chance to the younger members of his squad in this evening’s friendly after naming Hibs trio Bjorn Kristensen, Jean Paul Farrugia and Steve Pisani, who spent last season on loan with Floriana, in the travelling party along with former Malta U-21 team-mates Rowen Muscat and Terence Vella.

“I want to have a look at the young players,” Ghedin remarked.

“Steve Pisani and Jean Paul Farrugia are part of the squad together with Bjorn Kristensen... we’ll see how they perform.

“Overall, we have a good nucleus of players.”

With experienced midfielder Gareth Sciberras unavailable due to work commitments, Kristensen is likely to get Ghedin’s nod to partner Valletta duo Roderick Briffa and Ryan Fenech in midfield.

Ghedin was pleased with Kristensen’s performance after the 21-year-old came on for Sciberras in the friendly defeat to Albania.

Kristensen has all but agreed terms to sign for AC Omonia and the deal is likely to be concluded in the coming days.

At the back, Valletta’s Steve Borg is set to make his much-awaited return for the national team after a succession of injuries limited his appearances in 2013.

No surprises are expected in Ghedin’s selection.

The established players, the likes of experienced captain Michael Mifsud, who is set to rejoin Sliema Wanderers, André Schembri, Andrei Agius, Jonathan Caruana and Clayton Failla, are all expected to start this evening in what will be Ray Farrugia’s first game since being appointed assistant coach of the senior national team.

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