Albania end their qualifying campaign in Austria knowing a finals place is beyond them, but coach Skënder Gega tells UEFA.com there is still plenty at stake.
Albania Under-21s coach Skënder Gega is hoping his charges can overcome the odds and end their campaign in good heart when they visit Austria on Wednesday.
With one win and six defeats in UEFA European U21 Championship qualifying Group 4, Albania need victory against second-placed Austria in their concluding fixture to have any chance of escaping bottom position. However, domestic duties mean that Gega is still not clear who he will have available.
"I have players in the starting lineup who will fly to Austria on Monday, train on Tuesday and play on Wednesday," Gega told UEFA.com. "We used a relatively young group of players during the qualifiers and will continue to follow the same strategy – playing with prospective players for the future.
"Although we know it's very difficult to play a group contender with a young collection of players with only one day of training with the whole squad, we hope to keep competing and end these qualifiers strongly."
Last August, Austria won 1-0 in Albania thanks to an Elseid Husaj own goal. They now only trail leaders Spain by six points with a game in hand. "We played well in the first game and we didn't deserve to lose," said Gega. "We played good football, especially in the second half, but we couldn't score and we hope to do that on Wednesday.
"We hope the outcome this time around will be different, knowing that for most of the players like Valentin Gjokaj, Elvis Prençi, Idriz Batha, Gjelbrim Taipi, Vasil Shkurtaj, Arbnor Fejzullahu and Herolind Shala it will be their last match with the team. A positive result would be a great farewell thank you to all of them.
"With only a couple of days of training it's very hard to get the maximum out of players, knowing that some of them don't even play with their teams. The opposite goes for our opponents, Austria or even Spain, as their players frequently play minutes with big-name clubs."
Gega recently signed a two-year deal to cover the 2017 qualifying campaign, when he will be able to call on a new generation of players including Thoma Strakosha, Aldo Teqja, Amir Rrahmani, Klodian Gino, Enis Gavazaj and Elseid Hysaj. "For our team the main objective is to develop players that can help our national team," the 50-year-old former international said. "It's very difficult to do that when most of the players are old enough to move beyond youth level, but are too young to play at U21 and senior level, due to their inexperience."