Malta Football Association
Balzan, Floriana in top-four encounter
Mar 10, 2017
Posted in:
BOV Premier League

A stern test awaits Balzan, the BOV Premier League leaders, as they face fourth-placed Floriana on Sunday in the main match of this weekend’s BOV Premier League progamme.

Balzan, who have set the pace in the top division since the opening weeks of the season, retained their position at the summit last weekend after 5-2 victory over Pembroke Athleta.


Not the same can be said of Floriana as their goalless stalemate against St Andrews left them eight points off the top with nine games remaining.


The Greens can hardly afford to drop points against the Reds if they are to keep their slender title hopes alive.


Winger Steve Pisani is out for Floriana, suspended, while Balzan will be without defender Clive Brincat who was also handed a one-match ban in midweek.


Midfielder Ryan Fenech returns for the leaders after suspension kept him out of the Pembroke success.


The Balzan-Floriana match will be followed by another interesting fixture as Birkirkara take on Ħamrun Spartans.


Only a win will do for Birkirkara to stay in the hunt for a top-four spot after their 1-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows narrowed their gap on Floriana to two points.


Defender Predrag Jovic is suspended for Birkirkara but midfielder Ryan Scicliuna is back in the reckoning.


Ħamrun are also under some pressure to get their act together after a 3-1 defeat to Gżira United erased the feelgood factor generated by their 3-3 draw against Hibernians.


Other keen tussles are expected this weekend, particularly those involving St Andrews and Tarxien preceded by the Gżira United and Sliema Wanderers  derby, with these two neighbouring teams crossing swords at the Hibernians Stadium on Saturday at 2pm.


Tarxien are buoyed by the return of Brazilian wing-back Alex Alves but St Andrews have lost Godwin McKay to suspension. Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre has yet to see out a two-match ban for the Saints.


The Maroons, on a high after their exciting win over the Spartans, their third on the trot, welcome back captain Moises Avila Perez for their clash with Sliema who went down 2-1 to second-placed Hibernians last weekend.


Sliema coach John Buttigieg can’t field his best team as midfielder Mark Scerri and Italian defender Stefano Bianciardi are both suspended but Brazilian playmaker Denni is available.


Third-placed Valletta play Pembroke Athleta in Saturday’s first game at the National Stadium, at 2pm, while Hibernians meet Mosta in the ensuing match.


The champions are regarded as favourites to take maximum points from their match against bottom side Pembroke Athleta.


Argentine left-back Leandro Aguirre is suspended for Valletta but coach Paul Zammit is boosted by the return of defender Steve Borg.


The options for Pembroke coach Artim Shakiri are enhanced by the return from suspension of no fewer than three players, Owen Bugeja, Brooke Farrugia and Andrea Scozzese.


Hibs also seem to carry too much firepower for Mosta who are second-from-bottom on 16 points.

With 54 matches remaining and each team having nine matches left the battle for supremacy in terms of the title and relegation issues is brewing.


The prevailing balance on a match-to-match basis could result in shifting of places both at the top and lower ends of the table. 


Ten points separate the first five-placed teams, Balzan, Hibernians, Valletta, Floriana and Birkirkara while there are seven lengths between the next five, Sliema Wanderers, Tarxien Rainbows, Ħamrun Spartans, Gżira United and St Andrews.

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