Preview: Azerbaijan vs Malta

Malta still looking for their first win in the Nations League as Ray Farrugia’s side will face Azerbaijan tomorrow in Baku.

Coach Ray Farrugia and Andrei Agius answering questions ahead of the match between Azerbaijan and Malta. Photo: Dominic Aquilina / MFA
Coach Ray Farrugia and Andrei Agius answering questions ahead of the match between Azerbaijan and Malta. Photo: Dominic Aquilina / MFA

On Sunday, the Maltese players will have a chance to perform better than they did in Kosovo as they will play against Azerbaijan in Baku.

However, many are anticipating another difficult encounter since Azerbaijan are currently second in the table, two points behind Kosovo. This scenario means that Gurban Gurbanov’s men need a must win if they are to overcome Kosovo and win promotion to League C.

Azerbaijan are still unbeaten in League D group 3 as they shared the spoils with Kosovo and Malta before securing a comfortable 3-0 win over Faroe Islands on Thursday. In fact, they are now seen as the only team who can threaten Kosovo.

On the other hand, Malta seem destined for the last place in the group once more. Our national team started their campaign with a 3-1 defeat against the Faroe Islands, but improved in the second game and drew 1-1 against Azerbaijan a month ago. Such result filled the Maltese with hopes; however, Malta’s players were completely dominated by Kosovo on Thursday and fell to another 3-1 defeat.

Malta played against Azerbaijan in seven previous times. The first three encounters between these sides were all won by Malta.  The first one dates back to the 19th of April 1994. On that day Malta won 5-0. Malta’s goals were scored by Nicholas Saliba, Kristian Laferla, Alex Busuttil, Joseph Camilleri and Charles Scerri.

Six years later, Malta registered a 3-0 win over Azerbaijan on the 6th of February 2000. On that day, Gilbert Agius scored twice, while John Buttigieg scored the other goal.

The third match was played on the 17th of April 2002. This time, Malta emerged victorious once more as a goal by Michael Mifsud on the 56th minute made all the difference.

Eleven years passed since Malta and Azerbaijan played against each other again. By this time, Azerbaijan improved a lot and managed to record their only two wins against Malta till now.

The first defeat to Azerbaijan dates back to a friendly match that took place on the 14th of August 2013. Azerbaijan won this game 3-0.

Nearly two years later, Azerbaijan won 2-0 during a match valid for UEFA European Championship that was played on the 28th of March 2015.

Following these defeats, the Maltese players held Azerbaijan twice at Ta’ Qali.

The first of these was a 2-2 draw in a European Qualifiers match. Alfred Effiong and Michael Mifsud scored Malta’s goals on the day. The latter’s goal was quite significant as it was Mifsud’s 40th goal for Malta.

The last match between Malta and Azerbaijan is quite fresh in our memories as it took place just one month ago. This was Malta’s home debut in the Nations League. Andrei Agius scored from the penalty spot to give Malta an early advantage, but Tamkin Khalilzade equalised for the away side.

For tomorrow, Ray Farrugia will have to do without Michael Mifsud who will be suspended following his red card against Kosovo. However, Joseph Zerafa will be back as Valletta’s defender served his suspension against Kosovo.

As difficult as it might seem, if Malta’s players rise to the occasion, supporters of the national team will have every right to believe that a positive result can be obtained.

The match will be played at the Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu, kick-off at 18:00.

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