Malta Football Association
Focus on title quest as leaders Hibs take on Valletta
Apr 4, 2017
Posted in:
BOV Premier League

The top duel during the midweek programme on Tuesday and Wednesday is undoubtedly the match between leaders Hibernians and second-placed Valletta at 8pm at the National Stadium. 

It will be another test of nerves between these two protagonists whose previous head-to-head league clashes both went the way of the Paolites 2-0 and 1-0, the first in September and the second in January.


It is now an even more crucial must-win clash, especially for Valletta who will be aiming to trim the five-point deficit from Hibernians to three points, with five subsequent matches left for each side to end their championship commitments.


Hibernians go into Wednesday’s match with their morale sky-high after their 3-1 win over Balzan coupled with Valletta’s 1-1 draw against derby rivals Floriana lifted them five points clear at the summit.


Indeed, the Paolites have now cemented their tag as favourites to recapture the title after ceding the crown to Valletta last season but coach Mark Miller has been urging his players not to ease up, knowing that a slip-up against Valletta would throw the title race wide open.


On the other hand, Paul Zammit, the Valletta coach, is aware that his team has no margin for error as failure to pick up maximum points in tomorrow’s crunch game would leave them with a mountain to climb.


Miller is sweating on the fitness of Brazilian defender Rodolfo Soares who was substituted at half-time on Sunday after picking up an injury.


For his part, Zammit is hopeful of getting the all-clear to field midfielder Rowen Muscat but Ryan Camilleri’s chances of playing against his former team appear remote after the experienced defender suffered a shoulder injury during Malta’s 3-1 defeat to Slovakia on March 26.


For both the reigning champions and Hibernians it will certainly be a matter of producing the most effective fare on the day.


Chances taken or missed will also take their toll to complement the performance of the two sides.


Both sets of supporters will be in their full force to back their favourites in what is expected to be an intruiging tussle.


The midweek programme kicks off on Tuesday evening at the Hibernians Stadium when Sliema Wanderers, buoyed by their 4-1 win over St Andrews, take on Tarxien Rainbows who drew 1-1 with Ħamrun Spartans in their last outing.


Tarxien are under the temporary charge of team captain Tristan Caruana following the resignation of coach Jesmond Zerafa.


In the second game, starting at 8pm, Birkirkara start as favourites to beat strugglers Pembroke Athleta as they strive to keep up their Euro challenge.


Last weekend, the Stripes climbed above Floriana in fourth place after a straightforward 3-0 win over Mosta who have parted company with Slovakian coach Zsolt Hornyak.


Defender Nikola Vukanac is suspended for Birkirkara.


At the Victor Tedesco Stadium on Wednesday, Balzan will be going all out to return to winning ways after back-to-back defeats when they meet the in-form Gżira United.


Montenegrin goalkeeper Ivan Janjusevic is suspended for Balzan while Gżira, who beat Pembroke 5-1 last weekend, must make do without Andrew Cohen and Souleymane Diamoutene.


Floriana will have several key players missing for their tricky match against Ħamrun Spartans tomorrow as goalkeeper Justin Haber, Enrico Pepe, Ryan Camenzuli and Nicolas Chiesa were sanctioned after the derby.


The first game at the National Stadium on Wednesday is between embattled Mosta, second-from-bottom, and St Andrews, one place above their impending opponents but enjoying a strong 12-point lead.
The Saints will be without South Korean defender Wong Bon Che, suspended.

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