Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Rivals Valletta and Birkirkara in must-win clash
Apr 15, 2017
Posted in:
General
Leagues
BOV Premier League

If last weekend’s matches involving the leading trio are anything to go by, this weekend’s clashes coinciding with Easter should offer spectacle, drama and, why not, surprises as the battle for the league title rages on.



So far the race has been one of the fiercest in recent years, with three teams laying a claim for the country’s topmost football honour.

 

The top fixture this weekend is undoubtedly the clash between Valletta and Birkirkara on Saturday at the National Stadium (kick-off 6pm).

 

These two rivals can’t afford to lose points.

 

Valletta desperately need a win if they are to stay in the title race following their 1-1 draw against Gżira United while Birkirkara also face a must-win scenario as they look to mount a last-ditch bid for a top-three finish. The Stripes will fancy their chances of defeating their rivals on the back of their lively performance in the 3-1 win over Balzan.

 

Italian midfielder Claudio Pani is out for Valletta, suspended. He joins Steve Borg on the sidelines after the defender’s three-match ban was confirmed on appeal on Thuesday.

 

Valletta have the upperhand in head-to-head clashes with Birkirkara this season, winning the second-round match 1-0 after drawing 1-1 in the first round.

 

Hibernians, with a four-point cushion over Valletta and five over Balzan, face dark horses Gżira United on Saturday at the Hibernians Stadium (6pm), a match preceded by the Balzan-St Andrews clash which could be equally tricky for Oliver Spiteri’s side whose title hopes are now hanging by a thread after a series of a negative results.

 

The Paolites go into their clash with Gżira in high spirits after their pulsating 3-2 victory over Floriana last weekend extended their lead at the top.

 

A win over Gżira would take Hibernians closer to the title but the leaders are unlikely to underestimate their opponents, moreso after the Maroons pulled off a mini surprise by holding Valletta to a 1-1 draw.

 

Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla, who has been handed a new deal by the club, must make do without midfielder Juan Corbalan, suspended.


Two of the other matches between Pembroke Athleta and Tarxien Rainbows and that between Mosta and Ħamrun Spartans can be classified as mundane considering there are no hot issues involved. 

 

Tarxien, whose form has slumped lately, will be without Kurt Zammit, suspended, while bottom side Pembroke Athleta are hampered by the absence of Tonci Radovnikovic. These two teams meet in Saturday’s opening game at the National Stadium (kick-off4pm).

 

The other contest between the ‘Old Firm’ rivals, Sliema Wanderers and Floriana, on Monday evening at the National Stadium, invariably has the prestige tag attached to it even if the Greens would relish victory more than their rivals since they are still in with a fighting chance to leapfrog Birkirkara for fourth place.

 

In Monday’s opening game at the National Stadium (4pm), Ħamrun Spartans will be looking to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat to Sliema Wanderers when they meet Mosta, knowing that victory would secure their place in the top flight for another season.

 

For their part, the Blues will be aiming to increase their lead over bottom side Pembroke Athleta and fine-tune their form ahead of a their likely involvement in the relegation-promotion play-off against the fourth-placed team in Division One.

 

Midfielder Luke Sciberras is suspended for Ħamrun while Mosta will be without goalkeeper Yenz Cini who received a one-match ban in midweek.
 

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