Potential ‘title decider’ preview

Lincoln Red Imps LogoEuropa FC LogoBig Match Build Up: Lincoln v Europa

Saturday 8th April 2017: 20:30 ko

This weekend’s clash between the two top dogs in Gibraltar football could quite possibly be billed as the biggest meeting between the sides to date. With Europa overtaking champions Lincoln last time out after the Imps surrendered their 3-2 lead against Glacis United in the latter stages of the game, the Greens took the initiative of the title race with a win over Manchester 62, as they know another win against Lincoln could all but secure their first league title of the modern era and the club’s first since 1952.

Since Europa’s promotion to the top flight back in 2013 back in their days under the College umbrella, they have only beaten Lincoln twice. 1-0 earlier on this season thanks to a Liam Walker free kick and 2-0 win back on the 29th of February 2016 with goals from Guillermo Roldan and Adrian Pavon on that occasion. Europa have been moving up the gears as the season has unfolded. In 2017, they have won 12 out of their 13 games (their only blemish coming at the hands of Lincoln) Since the turn of the year, Europa have scored 50 goals in their 13 games, an average of nearly 4 goals a game, whilst only conceding 11. During the same period, Lincoln have scored 39 goals in contrast showing the Europa front line have been more astute in front of goal in recent weeks.

Former Lincoln man, Liam Walker is happy with the progress his side has made this season and by no means thinks his side will be happy playing for a draw.

I feel the team is working well, its closer than Europa have ever had it [the league] and the team spirit is high. We take it game by game and stick to our game plan. I would say the main thing is we all work hard for each other. Every game we go out in we are going out for the win and we want the win.

Europa President Peter Cabezutto has invested a lot of time and money since taking over after the club’s promotion and has seen his side become Lincoln’s main rival over recent years. With the league title closer than ever before, Cabezutto has no doubt his team will give it their best shot to win the title this season.

We have one idea in our head which is; go out to the pitch and win the game. Give it all 150% and may the best team win. No point of thinking what if. We have to die with our boots on no speculation give it all. Winning on Saturday would put us in a great position and hard work from everyone in Europa FC gives us this opportunity again to put ground between us but we must be reminded that we still would have to win 4 out of the 5 games to the end of the season. Every team is a difficult opponent and our feet are still solidly on the ground and until we are mathematically champions we have to work very hard for every game and most importantly always be humble and Believe.

Lincoln will be buoyed by the fact that they have the better of the head to head record between the sides. In the last 14 meetings between the two in all competitions, Lincoln have won 8 and drawn 4. A draw on this occasion would not help their cause this time round as it would effectively place their title chances out of their hands, hoping other results go their way. That aside, Lincoln have not looked like their dominant best in recent weeks. Draws against Glacis (3-3) and St Joseph’s (2-2) suggest their defence is not as watertight as it once was. At the other end, they have been winning games by the minimum margin and not scoring plenty of goals as they have grown accustomed to. Wins against Gibraltar Utd (1-0), Lynx (1-0) and Mons Calpe (2-1). A last minute winner from Kyle Casciaro in the dying embers of the game against Gib Utd spared them from another draw and falling further behind in the title hunt. It can clearly be seen Lincoln’s dominance of the league is coming to an end and pressure perhaps is getting to the players like never before. They will not need reminding how big the up coming game is.

Despite this, Lincoln and Gibraltar captain Roy Chipolina is confident his side has what it takes to see the job through.

We have a strong mentality so Saturday’s disappointing  draw is  behind us. Team morale is high as we know that everything is still in our hands. At this stage of the season what counts is points on the board. We have fantastic players who can get a goal from nothing so not being free scoring doesn’t concern me. Like always we have been preparing and continue to prepare for what is the biggest game of the season to date.

 

Former Lincoln skipper, Daniel Duarte has been casting an eye on his former team over the course of the season and whilst admitting they are currently not at their best, he still believes they can win the game on Saturday and seal their 15th straight league title. Duarte gave us his opinion on how he thought the game would unfold:

They started well ,with good control football. However, these last few months I think they are struggling a lot because they haven’t rotated their players well enough and most of the players have had a very long season with Lincoln and the national team . The fatigue is catching up at the end of the season . Remember that Lincoln went through to the second round of the champions league betting Celtic 1-0. Moreover, I think they haven’t replaced Liam Walker and Antonio Livramento, key players from last season, in addition to injuries, suspensions, and the fatigue of a very long season seem to have impacted the results of the last few games, winning by a very close margins. We could talk about their formation, a formation that personally I don’t like, but that formation has given them one of the most famous win football history. Both teams are in a very similar situation. Europa must have learned from their mistakes from their last game against Lincoln.

Last time they played with a very high defensive line and were trying to get control of the ball and position, that cost them the goals from Lee [Casciaro] on the counterattack. This time, I think they will play on the counterattack, letting Lincoln have the ball , with a aggressive football and with speed in attacks and hoping for a Liam and Kike connection to win them the game.

On the other hand Lincoln can’t loses this game a draw could still be good at the end of the season. They mast be at their very best at the back and be very lethal at front. The first goal of the game will be crucial. They must avoid at all costs any arguments between themselves and  keep themselves in the game at till the very last minute, they know they will have their chances but the question is; will they take them?

The title can not be won on Saturday night but a win for either side would make a huge statement of intent. A draw does not confirm Europa as the champion. With games against St Joseph’s and Glacis still to come this season, matches which can look on paper as certain 3 pointers can become complicated with the pressure given the importance of victory. One thing is for sure though, the title race could well go down to the wire.