Horsham relishing opening game against 'title favourites' Hornchurch
The Urchins recorded a maiden FA Trophy triumph at Wembley in May, beating National League North outfit Hereford 3-1 in the final.
On their way to Wembley, Hornchurch overcame five opponents from the National League North and South, and took the scalp of Notts County in the semis.
After a long pre-season, which culminated in a 2-1 defeat at home to Hartley Wintney last Saturday, Di Paola was looking forward to the Hornets testing their mettle in a competitive fixture.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s what we all do it for.
“I can’t wait to be honest. I can’t wait to get out after pre-season and do something a bit more interesting.
“They’re title-favourites I think. They’ve played all through lockdown because of the FA Trophy.
“They’ve trained all through lockdown so they’ve got some fitness.
“They’ve got a nice amount of youth in amongst their squad, so it’s going to be a good game I think.
“I’m looking forward to playing against a team as good as that.”
Horsham’s pre-season was plagued with player availabiltiy issues due to injuries, Covid, and players having to isolate.
And Di Paola revealed these problems may impact Saturday’s squad selection.
He added: “We’ve got all sorts of things going on. We’re going to have to see how everything pans out over the next few days.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Horsham added their ninth new face of the summer.
The Hornets have snapped up former Crawley Town youngster and Lewes skipper Alex Malins.
The defender, who made his debut against Hartley Wintney last weekend, has also had spells at Bognor Regis Town and Horsham YMCA.
Di Paola said: “He’s an experienced player and he’s been about. We tried to sign him last year.
“We’re a bit light at the back, and we still are, but he gives us another option there. He’s played plenty of football at this level.
“He’s a good, nice lad and he’s fitted in really well, and we’re looking forward to him playing for us.”