Malta hosts Gibraltar in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off at 20:00. A final test for Michele Marcolini’s side ahead of the next European Qualifier, at home against Northern Macedonia in programme on Tuesday.
This will be the sixth game for Malta since Marcolini took over as national teams head coach. Malta lost the four European Qualifiers against North Macedonia, Italy, England and Ukraine, defeating Luxembourg in a friendly match away from home.
The performance against Ukraine in the team’s last outing in June was probably the best one so far this year with Malta losing by one goal to nil and therefore the team will be hoping to continue to build on that performance in the bid to claim the first positive result in Group C, starting from the match against North Macedonia on Tuesday.
The Gibraltar game is an important one for the team considering that for a number of players this will be the first official game since the June matches. With the BOV Premier League yet to start, only players of Hamrun Spartans, Balzan and Birkirkara and Gzira United played official matches this season apart from the foreign-based players, namely Zach Muscat and Cain Attard who are playing in Portugal for Farense and Belenenses respectively, Matthew Guillaumier who is now playing for Stal Mielec, Jodi Jones who plays for Notts County and Teddy Teuma who had an impressive start with Stade de Reims in France.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Marcolini said “It’s disappointing. Apart from the Hamrun (and Balzan) players who played more games in Europe together with the foreign-based players, the others are yet to play an official match this season. Although they did play friendly matches, it is obvious that the intensity in these games is totally different. However, we should never look back. We should focus on giving our best. The players showed that they are in good condition. They worked hard over the past days and therefore I am quite optimistic ahead of these games although only the pitch will tell over the ninety minutes.”
Speaking about Wednesday’s game, the Malta coach said “This game will be rather different than the ones we played before, considering that in the European Qualifiers we faced top-level teams which are ranked in the top thirty. With all due respect, the game against Gibraltar should be a different game where we could try to impose our game although we know that in football, this depends both on us and our opponents but we need to focus on ourselves.”
“We always try to impose our game but obviously, this was not always possible against the strong teams we faced earlier this year. We will try to do that, taking to the pitch our thirst to win. Before the last two qualifiers, we registered an important win over Luxembourg and hopefully we will repeat this in the game against Gibraltar.”
Hamrun Spartans defender Ryan Camenzuli added “We at playing good football, being more in command than it was the case in recent matches and being more positive. This game will give the coach and his technical staff the chance to try new things ahead of the North Macedonia game.”
Marcolini made no surprise choices as he named the squad for this game and the EURO qualifier against North Macedonia. Goalkeeper Jake Galea is back in squad along with Jean Borg, Enrico Pepe and Brandon Paiber while Ferdinando Apap, Shaun Dimech and Alex Satariano are missing.
The full squad at his disposal is made up of:
Goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Hamrun Spartans FC), Matthew Grech (Zabbar St Patrick’s FC), Jake Galea (Valletta FC)
Defenders Steve Borg (Hamrun Spartans FC), Zach Muscat (Farense – POR), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara FC), Kurt Shaw (Hibernians FC), Jean Borg (Sliema Wanderers FC), Cain Attard (CF Os Belenenses – POR)
Midfielders Juan Corbalan (Hamrun Spartans FC), Ryan Camenzuli (Hamrun Spartans FC), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana FC), Steven Pisani (Santa Lucia FC), Matthew Guillaumier (FKS Stal Mielec Spolka Akcyjna – POL), Nikolai Muscat (Marsaxlokk FC), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians FC), Brandon Diego Paiber (Valletta FC), Yannick Yankam (Birkirkara FC), Teddy Teuma (Stade de Reims FC), Jake Grech (Balzan FC), Joseph Essien Mbong (Hamrun Spartans FC)
Forwards Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians FC), Jodi Felice Jones (Notts County – ENG), Kyrian Nwoko (Floriana FC), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara FC), Luke Montebello (Hamrun Spartans).
Meanwhile the squad selected by Gibraltar coach Julio Cesar Ribas includes seven foreign-based players.
The squad for this match and the EURO qualifier against Greece is made up of :
goalkeepers Dayle Coleing (Lincoln Red Imps), Bradley Banda (St Joseph’s), Christian Lopez (Bruno’s Magpies);
defenders Roy Chipolina (captain) (Lincoln Red Imps), Joseph Chipolina (Bruno’s Magpies), Jack Sergeant (Lincoln Red Imps), Jayce Olivero (Helsingør), Aymen Mouelhi (St Joseph’s), Ethan Britto (Lincoln Red Imps), Ethan Jolley (St Joseph’s), Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps), Ethan Santos (Manchester 62);
midfielders Liam Walker (Lincoln Red Imps), Anthony Hernandez (Bruno’s Magpies), Kian Ronan (King’s Lynn Town), Mohamed Badr (Manchester 62), Nicholas Pozo (Cádiz), Niels Hartman (Vermont Catamounts);
forwards Lee Casciaro (Lincoln Red Imps), Tjay De Barr (Wycombe Wanderers), Reece Styche (Matlock Town), Ayoub El Hmidi (Torrijos), Dylan Peacock (Mons Calpe).
In 2023, Gibraltar played four matches, suffering four 0-3 defeats – to Greece at home, Netherlands away from home, France at home and Ireland away from home.
This will be the third match between Malta and Gibraltar. Gibraltar had defeated Malta 1-0 in a firneldy match in Faro, Portugal in June 2014 but in October 2020, Malta defeated Gibraltar 2-0 in another friendly match courtesy of Kyrian Nwoko and Triston Caruana to hand Marcolini’s predecessor, Devis Mangia, his first win.