Pi­etro Ghedin’s Malta face South­gate’s Eng­land side to­day

● Malta boys eager to cut a good fig­ure at Wem­b­ley

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

When Malta faces Eng­land at Wem­b­ley this evening (kick off 6pm Malta time), it will be an­other David v. Go­liath af­fair.

It is tiny Malta against one of the world’s great­est sides – the Masters of the game of foot­ball, in fact – even if the Union Jack boys have been pass­ing through a soft patch lately.

Apart from the early elim­i­na­tion from Euro 2016 in France and the slim 1-0 win against Slo­vakia thanks to a stop­page time goal, the squad also had to face a change of man­ager just 10 days ago when Sam Al­lardyce was forced for mak­ing un­ac­cept­able com­ments.

His place has been taken ad in­terim by Gareth South­gate who is now de­ter­mined to see his boys pro­duce a good per­for­mance to­day to give him the good start he needs in or­der to be able to claim his per­ma­nent place at the helm of the Eng­land side later this year.

These are the rea­sons, per­haps, that are en­cour­ag­ing the Malta boys as they face their more il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nents.

Ital­ian men­tor Pi­etro Ghedin has worked hard with all the play­ers dur­ing the past few days to pre­pare them for this tough test.

And although the play­ers say that this is an­other qual­i­fier, how­ever, one must ad­mit that Eng­land, play­ing at home, is dif­fer­ent from Eng­land play­ing away.

Ghedin must be aware that his team faces long stretches on the de­fen­sive as Rooney & Co will be seek­ing to ob­tain a good win as a boost for their forth­com­ing matches and thus also give a boost to their qual­i­fi­ca­tion hopes.

Ghedin, how­ever, will have to make some changes to the side that lost heav­ily (1-5) to Scot­land at Ta’ Qali last month. Val­letta de­fender Jonathan Caru­ana and Luke Gam­bin are both ruled out through sus­pen­sion – both saw red against the Scots.

Caru­ana, how­ever, will be el­i­gi­ble for next Tues­day’s clash against Lithua­nia in Vil­nius. Gam­bin will miss both matches as he was sus­pended for two games.

Also miss­ing these matches (at least) is vet­eran mid­fielder Rod­er­ick Briffa of Val­letta, who is fac­ing a long lay­off through in­jury.

I ex­pect Ghedin to start with a very cau­tious for­ma­tion to­day that should in­clude Hibs goalie An­drew Hogg be­tween the posts.

I will not be sur­prised that he will opt for a five-man de­fence and a four-man mid­field, leav­ing just one striker – prob­a­bly Michael Mif­sud, up front.

His five men at the back could be Zach Mus­cat, Steve Borg, An­drei Agius and Alex Mus­cat while the mid­field four could be Gareth Sciber­ras, Paul Fenech, Bjorn Kris­tensen (Rowen Mus­cat) and Clay­ton Failla.

Around 2,500 Mal­tese fans are ex­pected to be at Wem­b­ley this evening to give their sup­port to the boys in red.

The match is be­ing trans­mit­ted live on TVM 2, start­ing at 6pm.

The squad

Goal­keep­ers:

An­drew Hogg (Hiber­ni­ans), Henry (Val­letta).

De­fend­ers: An­drei Agius (Hiber­ni­ans), Jonathan Caru­ana (Val­letta), Zach Mus­cat (Arezzo, Italy), Alex Mus­cat (Sliema Wan­der­ers), Ryan Camil­leri (Val­letta), Steve Borg (Val­letta), Joseph Zer­afa (Birkirkara), Clay­ton Failla (Hiber­ni­ans).

Mid­field­ers: Paul Fenech (Balzan), Bjorn Kris­tensen (Hiber­ni­ans), Bonello Mark Scerri (Sliema Wan­der­ers), Gareth Sciber­ras (Birkirkara), Rowen Mus­cat (Birkirkara), Ryan Sci­cluna (Birkirkara), Steve Pisani (Flo­ri­ana).

Strik­ers: Michael Mif­sud (Val­letta), Jean Paul Far­ru­gia (Sliema Wan­der­ers), Al­fred Ef­fiong (Balzan), An­dre Schem­bri (Boav­ista, Por­tu­gal).

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