Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Crunch clashes for title and Euro challengers
Mar 9, 2018
Posted in:
General
Leagues
BOV Premier League

Matchday 22 of the BOV Premier League features two potentially crucial matches, both for the title issue and the race for European football.
  


The buoyant Birkirkara take on leaders Balzan at the National Stadium on Saturday and the following day, second-placed Valletta meet Hibernians.

 

Balzan’s draw against Gżira United on Monday enabled title rivals Valletta to close the gap to just one point with five matches remaining.

 

Birkirkara are third, only five points behind Balzan, meaning that their direct encounter on Saturday is a must-win for both teams.

 

At a press conference, organised by the Malta FA on Friday, Paul Zammit, the Birkirkara coach said his team are focusing only on their games.

 

With Birkirkara unbeaten in their last 10 matches, Zammit stressed the importance of maintaining the consistency that has lifted his team back into contention at the top of the standings.

 

For his part, Balzan coach Marko Micovic also emphasised that his team must remain focused and consistent as they bid to consolidate top spot and boost their chances of winning their first BOV Premier League title.
 

In the first round, Balzan claimed the three points after beating Birkirkara 2-1.

 

Montenegrin striker Bojan Kaljevic is missing for Balzan, suspended.

 

Sunday’s second match is also a make-or-break affair for both Valletta and Hibernians.

 

Valletta need the points to maintain their title challenge while Hibs can’t afford to lose if they are to keep their top-four hope alives.

 

Former Malta and Hibs goalkeeper Mario Muscat, who has taken charge of the team after Mark Miller’s exit, said the club’s revised target for this season is to finish fourth.

 

Hibs are coming from a 0-0 draw against Naxxar Lions and a 1-0 defeat to Sliema Wanderers.

 

Danilo Doncic, the Valletta coach, acknowledged that his team have no room for error as a slip-up would all but ruin their chances of overhauling Balzan in the title race.

 

The first round match between Valletta and Hibs ended goalless.

 

In other games, Tarxien Rainbows face a must-win scenario in their game against relegation-bound Lija Athletic at the Centenary Stadium on Friday.

 

Tarxien welcome back Sean Cipriott and Andrè Scicluna who return from suspension but Nigerian defender Ebiabowei Baker is missing.

 

Lija beat Tarxien 3-2 in the first round.

 

FLORIANA FAVOURITES

 

On Saturday, Floriana, in fifth place, face Senglea Athletic at the National Stadium.

 

Clyde Borg is still suspended for Floriana but Argentine Sebastian Ricardo Nayar returns after serving a one-match ban.

 

Senglea, who suffered a 3-0 defeat to Ħamrun Spartans last weekend, will be without Gonzalo Julian Leyton.

 

In the first round, Floriana beat Senglea 3-0

 

Sliema Wanderers will be looking to keep their top-four hopes alive when they play St Andrews at the Hibernians Stadium on Saturday.

 

The Saints, fourth from bottom, welcome back Kevaun Atkinson but Kemmu Degran Jackson and Ricardo Adrian Martin will be missing due to suspension.

 

The first-round match saw Sliema emerge 2-0 winners.

 

Naxxar Lions need a win to increase their chances of avoiding relegation but face a tough task against Ħamrun Spartans on Saturday.

 

Striker Daren Falzon is suspended for Naxxar while Guilherme Felipe de Castro misses out for the Spartans who won 2-0 in the first round.

 

GŻIRA WITHOUT SAMB

 

Gżira United will be aiming to build on their tenacious performance in the goalless draw against Balzan when they meet Mosta in Sunday’s opening match at the National Stadium (2pm).

 

Coach Darren Abdilla must make do without striker Amadou Samb, suspended, while defender Davide Mansi must serve a one-match ban for Mosta who are coming from a 5-0 defeat to Floriana.

 

Gżira welcome back playmaker Andrew Cohen.

 

The first-round match ended 2-2.

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