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Watch: Balzan eye perfect match

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

Balzan will be in search of a perfect performance as they open their European commitments against Azerbaijan’s Kesla in the opening leg of the first qualifying round of the Europa League at the Centenary Stadium this evening (kick-off: 6pm).

The Reds are aware of the difficult task awaiting them as they face a Kesla team who have been one of the most successful teams in Azerbaijan during the last ten years and surely the Maltese side must play their best football if they are to seize control of the tie ahead of next week’s second leg in Baku.

Vladimir Simovic, the Balzan technical director, told Times of Malta that they are bracing themselves for a difficult tie but have a firm believe that they can upset their more-quoted opponents.

“We know that for us European matches are never easy but there is a growing belief in our camp that we can cause a lot of problems to Kesla,” Simovic said.

“I am very happy with the team’s preparations so far. We have been training for the last five weeks and the players look well prepared for this match. During this time we travelled to Slovenia for a ten-day training camp during which we played two friendlies against Vardar and Rijeka and the indications looked very encouraging.

“We have kept the backbone of last season’s squad and our six new signings have fitted in well in the new surroundings so everything looks positive.

“I just hope that we can play a perfect match as a win and a clean sheet would put us in a favourable position to progress to the next round.”

Kesla qualified for this season’s Europa League after winning the Azeri Cup last season.

Formerly known as Inter Baku, Kesla have a lot of experience in the UEFA club competitions and they have managed to reach the second qualifying round of the Europa League in all of their last seven participations in the competition.

Last season, they managed to knock out Mladost Lucani in the first qualifying round with a convincing 5-0 aggregate win before being eliminated by Luxembourg’s Fola Esch 4-2 on aggregate.

Simovic said that Balzan coach Marko Micovic was able to study thoroughly Kesla’s style of play and from the information they gathered it was clear that Balzan had to be wary of their opponents’ aerial prowess in set-piece situations.

“Kesla is a team who doesn’t like to be in possession a lot,” Simovic said.

“Their biggest strength is their ability to counter attack. They are very dangerous when they are in transition from defence to attack and we have to be very careful.

“However, their biggest strength lies in set-piece situations. They are very strong in the air and in fact last season from the 29 goals they scored, 16 came from set-pieces.

“So it will be imperative that we keep our concentration level high in such situations.”

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