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Preview: Cyprus vs. Malta - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Cyprus vs. Malta - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Monday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Cyprus and Malta, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Cyprus and Malta will only be playing for pride when they go head to head in World Cup 2022 qualification action in Larnaca on Friday evening.

The two nations find themselves level on points at the bottom of Group H, with just four points from seven matches, and cut adrift from the other sides as a result.


Match preview

Ranked 103rd in the world rankings, qualification for the World Cup next year has gone exactly as expected for Cyprus so far, with just the one win and a single draw from their seven qualifiers to date.

During this time, just the one goal has been scored, which arrived in a shock 1-0 win at home to Slovenia back in March, when Ioannis Pittas provided the decisive moment.

Surprisingly, this result arrived following an opening goalless draw with Slovakia and a narrow 1-0 defeat away to group favourites Croatia, although few were expecting the Cypriots to sustain the miraculous start to the qualifying campaign.

Since the impressive trio of fixtures in March, results have collapsed as expected, with three straight defeats in the September internationals preceding a 3-0 defeat to Croatia on home soil on Friday evening.

A shock was never on the cards for head coach Nikos Kostenoglou and his side, with the visitors dominating from start to finish and goalkeeper Neophytos Michael being required on a number of occasions to keep the scoreline respectable.

Like their hosts, Malta have endured a poor World Cup qualifying campaign as expected so far, sitting in fifth place in Group H and above their opponents only via goal difference.

However, unlike Cyprus, the world's 171st-ranked nation started the qualifiers as poorly as they are finishing it too, with five defeats from seven matches and 15 goals conceded in the process.

The latest of these losses arrived on Friday when the Knights of Malta played host to Slovakia in Ta' Qali, where the visitors comfortably saw off their opponents by a 4-0 scoreline, with the result never in doubt once the opening goal was netted by Josip Ilicic midway through the first half.

Although, despite being the lowest-ranked nation in the group and never being expected to muster up any surprises, Malta will take positives heading into Monday's fixture knowing that their moment to remember from the qualifiers so far arrived against the Cypriots when they triumphed 3-0 last month.

When the Cyprus central defender Costas Soteriou was shown a second yellow card towards the end of the first half, Malta pounced almost immediately with a goal from Cain Attard, before he added his second, and his side's third, after Joseph Mbong had also netted immediately after half time in a memorable evening.

Cyprus World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Cyprus form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Malta World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L

Malta form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Cyprus will be without left-back Andreas Avraam and captain Kostakis Artymatas on Monday, with the duo each picking up another yellow card and now serving one-match suspensions as a result.

With nothing but pride riding on the fixture, head coach Kostenoglou will be free to rotate and experiment with his side, although he may look to seize the rare opportunity of a victory by sticking with his best available lineup in order to get revenge for the defeat to Malta last month.

As for the visitors, they will be without a duo of suspended players themselves, after wing-back Mbong and young forward Alexander Satariano picked up their second yellow cards of the qualifying campaign against Slovenia.

Head coach Devis Mangia finds himself in a similar situation to his opposing coach on Monday, with little to play for and experimentation a possibility against the Cypriots.

Cyprus possible starting lineup:
Michael; Andreou, Soteriou, Antoniadis; Psaltis, Kastanos, Kyriakou, Ioannou; Papoulis, Sotiriou, Pittas

Malta possible starting lineup:
Bonello; Shaw, Pepe, Borg; Attard, Pisani, Teuma, Overend; Dimech, Montebello, P Mbong


We say: Cyprus 1-0 Malta

Cyprus should be able to make the most of their little extra quality when they host Malta on Monday, with home advantage potentially playing a part too.

The hosts will be out for revenge after the disappointing defeat when the nations met last month, with the red card proving to be a game-changer in that one.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data



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