Malta begin their UEFA Nations League campaign when they travel to San Marino in Group D2 on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts got their group stage off to a losing start, as expected, on Thursday, whilst the visitors were on the receiving end of a defeat themselves when they hosted Venezuela in an international friendly on Wednesday.
After shocking many by earning two points in their final two games of the 2020 Nations League against Liechtenstein and Gibraltar, San Marino began the 2022 campaign with a 2-0 defeat in Estonia in midweek.
Fabrizio Costantini‘s side found themselves two goals behind inside the opening 32 minutes in Tallinn during a difficult first half for the minnows.
However, a resurgent display in the second 45 saw San Marino put their hosts under some surprising pressure during some quick counter attacks, and were perhaps unfortunate not to find the back of the net.
Despite the positive performance in the second half though, the result means that those couple of draws two years ago are the only time that Costantini’s side have avoided defeat since a 0-0 draw with Estonia all the way back in 2014.
Nothing will stop these players from putting on their country’s jersey and wearing it with pride though, and they prepare for a quick turnaround to go again on Sunday in search of a memorable result.
Meanwhile, due to there being just three teams in Group D2 of the Nations League, Malta found themselves away from competitive action in midweek.
Instead, Devis Mangia‘s side hosted South American outfit Venezuela in an international friendly on home soil, where Everton striker Salomon Rondon scored the only goal of the game to condemn Malta to a narrow 1-0 loss.
After narrowly missing out on promotion from League D in the 2020 Nations League, with the Faroe Islands pipping Malta to the top spot, Sunday’s visitors will be expected to get off to a good start here ahead of a challenge with Estonia for first place this time around.
The visitors will have to do something that they have failed to do for almost two years in order to get off to a good start however, which is to win on their travels.
All of their five victories across all competitions since the 1-0 triumph in Latvia back in October 2020 have arrived in their own backyard, but the odds are certainly in their favour to put that record straight in Serravalle.
San Marino are unlikely to be able to call on the services of Manuel Battistini on Sunday, after the defender was forced off midway through the first half on Thursday because of an injury.
Alessandro D’Addario looks set to deputise on the right-hand side of the defensive trio as a result, after coming off the bench to replace Battistini in the defeat to Estonia.
Captain Matteo Vitaioli will support one of Nicola Nanni or Adolfo Hirsch in attack, with the latter having to settle for a place on the bench last time out.
As for the visitors, Mangia is likely to make several changes from the side that lost to Venezuela in midweek, with the Malta boss having experimented with numerous inexperienced players.
Henry Bonello should return in goal ahead of Jake Galea whilst the likes of Steve Borg and Luke Montebello should come into the starting 11.
San Marino possible starting lineup:
Benedettini; D’Addario, Palazzi, Fabbri; Zafferani, A Golinucci, Michael Battistini, Mularoni, Grandoni; Vitaioli; Hirsch
Malta possible starting lineup:
Bonello; Borg, Pepe, Z Muscat; Attard, Guillaumier, Garcia, Camenzuli; Teuma, Gambin; Montebello