Malta Football Association
Leaders face champions as top-four clashes steal show
Jan 18, 2019
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BOV Premier League

Birkirkara vs Pietà Hotspurs (Friday – Victor Tedesco Stadium, 6pm)


A potentially tricky encounter for Euro candidates Birkirkara who face a Pietá Hotspurs side chasing points to improve their lowly position in the standings.

The Hotspurs haven’t won in their last seven games.


Birkirkara, who have been very active in the January transfer window, are yet to field new signings Clayton Failla (Floriana), Johann Bezzina (Hibernians) and Bosnian midfielder Muamer Svraka.


Terence Agius is suspended for the Stripes following his dismissal in the goalless draw against Balzan last weekend while Pietà have Nigerian Jalo Ishaya Irimiya missing after collecting his fourth yellow card.


Dylan Agius is in line to return for the Hotspurs who have signed Serbian defender Stefan Radovanovic and Nigerian winger Umeh Uchenna Calistus.


Birkirkara won the first-round match with a 2-1 scoreline.


Ħamrun Spartans vs Gżira United (Friday – National Stadium, 7pm)


A direct top-four encounter between title challengers Gżira United, currently second, and Europa League contenders Ħamrun Spartans, in fourth place.


Both teams are coming from a 1-1 draw in their last outings… Ħamrun Spartans drew with Floriana while Gżira United were held by Tarxien Rainbows.


The Maroons, who have re-signed Italian midfielder Gianmarco Conti, will be looking to return to winning form after dropping points against Tarxien.


Their task promises to be a difficult one as the Spartans have transformed themselves into worthy top-four challengers this season.


Gżira are still without Senegalese striker Amadou Samb who is still recovering from a long-term injury.


Karl Micallef and Greek Orestis Nikolopoulos return from suspension for the Spartans.


The first-round encounter ended in a 0-0 draw.


Sliema Wanderers vs Floriana (Friday – Victor Tedesco Stadium, 8.15pm)


Old Firm rivals Sliema Wanderers and Floriana will go head-to-head with both teams needing points – the Blues, who lost 2-0 to Valletta, are determined to stay in the hunt for a Europa League spot while Floriana need the points to climb out of the bottom half.


Argentine Brandon Paiber, signed from Santa Lucia, is ready to make his debut for Floriana. Flank defender Alex Cini returns for the Greens who have parted with midfielder Steve Pisani, now with Balzan.


John Buttigieg, the Wanderers coach, must make do without Nortey Ashong Nii, suspended


Sliema Wanderers beat Floriana 1-0 in the first round.


Mosta vs Senglea Athletic (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 2pm)


Mosta face Senglea Athletic in a clash between two teams in the lower part of the standings.


Senglea’s morale is sky-high after their 4-0 victory over Qormi. They are now three points behind third-from-bottom Pietà Hotspurs and five adrift of Mosta.


The Blues, led by Mark Miller, will be going all out to collect the three points to pull further clear of the relegation zone.


Akeem Garnet Roach, Mosta’s Trinidad and Tobago forward, returns from suspension. Garnet Roach was sent off after scoring a brace on his debut – a 3-3 draw against Gżira United.


Mosta won the first-round match 2-0.


Tarxien Rainbows vs St Andrews (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 4pm)


Another potentially balanced encounter between Tarxien Rainbows and St Andrews with only one point between the two.


Both teams drew their last match with a 1-1 scoreline – Tarxien against Gżira and St Andrews against Mosta.


Forward Darren Falzon is suspended for Tarxien while St Andrews will be without Kevaughn Atkinson, who must also serve a one-match ban.


Tarxien Rainbows have made some important signings this week, including Argentine defender Juan Cruz Gill from Valletta, Italian flank player Thomas Veronese from Gżira and Siraj Arab on loan from Balzan. Defender Andrè Scicluna has left Tarxien to join Ħamrun Spartans.


Jamaican Travis Blagrove returns for the Saints after missing the Mosta game.


Tarxien obtained a 5-1 victory over St Andrews in the first-round fixture.


Qormi vs Balzan (Sunday – National Stadium, 2pm)


Balzan meet strugglers Qormi in a must-win game for both teams.


The Reds, currently seventh on 24 points, are coming from consecutive draws against Hibernians (2-2) and Birkirkara (0-0).


Qormi are bottom of the table after a poor run of 11 consecutive defeats.


Justin Grioli returns from suspension for Balzan while new signing Steve Pisani (Floriana) is set to make his debut.


Balzan claimed a 4-2 victory over Qormi in the first round.


Hibernians vs Valletta (Sunday – National Stadium, 4pm)


Leaders Hibernians take on champions Valletta in a top-of-the-table showdown.


The Paolites, unbeaten in their last 10 matches, are three points clear of Valletta, meaning that a win would significantly boost their title chances while putting a dent in their rivals’ hopes of defending their league crown.


On the other hand, a win for Valletta would leave them very much in the title hunt with 11 games remaining.


A draw could favour Gżira if the latter gain maximum points from their tough encounter with Ħamrun Spartans.


Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra is expected to field his best formation with Austrian playmaker Marco Sahanek set to make his debut.


Valletta have defender Steve Borg suspended. The champions have signed defensive midfielder Antonio Monticelli


The Paolites won the first-round encounter 2-1.


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