Malta Football Association
Second round of BOV Premier League kicks off on Saturday
Jan 10, 2020
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BOV Premier League

The second round of the 2019-20 BOV Premier League gets under way this weekend amid high expectations of an exciting title race and an equally intriguing relegation battle in the final four months of the season.

Leaders Floriana, six points clear at the top, kick off their 2020 commitments with a tricky match against Birkirkara on Sunday, Valletta face Santa Lucia, who had stunned the champions in the corresponding first-round fixture while Hibernians and Gżira United, both harbouring hopes of mounting a title challenge, meet Gudja United and Ħamrun Spartans respectively.

Sta Lucia vs Valletta  (Saturday – Centenary Stadium, 2pm)

After the surprising 3-2 defeat against then newly-promoted Sta Lucia in their first outing of the season, champions Valletta will be going all out to make amends by collecting the three points.

The Citizens, on a high after their BOV Super Cup success, are determined to start the year on a top note and keep up the pressure on leaders and rivals Floriana.  

Coach Darren Abdilla has strengthened his squad with the signings of Miguel Angel Alba (Birkirkara) and Triston Caruna (Ħamrun Spartans), while Santiago Malano is in line to return from a long-term injury.
For their part, Santa Lucia will be looking to rediscover their early-season form as they strive to obtain points and boost their prospects of keeping their top-flight status.
Diego Segura, Jamie Zerafa and Carlos Torres are set to return for Sta Lucia after missing their last encounter against Balzan (3-0).

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

Senglea Athletic, currently lying in 12th place, meet Sirens who are fifth and in contention for UEFA Europa League qualification. 
This promises to be a hard-fought game. Senglea have not registered a win in their last six outings, in which they drew twice. The last win was against Sliema Wanderers (2-0) on 18th October.
Sirens are coming from a 2-0 defeat against Birkirkara before the winter break and thus will be eager to get back to winning form.
Senglea Athletic will be without the suspended Nicolas Virano but Mirko Todorovic and Marcelo Dias return from suspension. Flavio Cheverasan is set to return for Sirens after missing the last two games.  
The first-round match ended in a 1-1 draw.  

Sliema Wanderers vs Balzan (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 4pm)

The encounter between Sliema Wanderers and Balzan promises to be a balanced one, open to any result.  The Wanderers have won three of their last four games but are still languishing in the bottom half of the standings, four points away from the relegation zone.  
The Blues have added new players to their squad during the current transfer window, including flank defender Arthur Oyama from Gżira United.  Coach Alfonso Greco also welcomes back Colombian defender Robert Diaz who missed the last game against Floriana.  
Balzan, who beat the Wanderers 2-1 in the first round, are expected to field the same formation as in the 3-0 win over Sta Lucia with the exception of Aleksandar Kosoric who is suspended.

Mosta vs Tarxien Rainbows (Saturday – Centenary Stadium, 4.15pm)

Mosta secured a boost on Wednesday as they beat Gudja United 1-0 in the last match of the first round that was rescheduled after being postponed last month.  
On Saturday, Mosta meet bottom side Tarxien Rainbows. A win for Mark Miller’s team would steer them further clear of the relegation zone. Mosta are expected to field the same formation as in the win against Gudja United during which Miller gave a debut to Brazilian Pedro Soares Gusso and Nigerian Christ Evo Ememe.
Defender Prince Destin Mambouana is suspended for Tarxien Rainbows who picked up their first point of the season in their last match against Senglea Athletic. Brandon Muscat returns from suspension for the Rainbows.
Mosta won the first-round game 4-0.

Hibernians vs Gudja United (Sunday – National Stadium, 2pm)

Hibernians take on Gudja United in their first match of 2020, needing a win to keep up with the title challengers. They are seven points behind leaders Floriana but just one point behind Gżira United and Valletta who are sharing second place.  
Gudja United will be looking to bounce back from their narrow 1-0 defeat to Mosta in midweek.
The Paolites, who ended their 2019 commitments with an important 2-0 win over Gżira United,  will be without influential players Bjorn Kristensen, Andrei Agius and Leandro Da Silveira, all suspended.  Agius will miss his first match after 42 consecutive appearances in which he has never been substituted for Hibernians.  
Gudja United have signed homegrown goalkeeper Glenn Zammit and Chilean midfielder Edison Bilbao Zarate among others, additions coach Josef Mansueto hopes will boost his team’s potential in their bid to retain their top-flight status.
The first-round match ended in a 1-1 draw.   

Floriana vs Birkirkara (Sunday – National Stadium, 4pm)

This is one of the most attractive fixtures of the weekend.  Leaders Floriana start as favourites to pick up the three points but Birkirkara, currently eighth, will be looking at this match as the perfect opportunity to kickstart their campaign. 
The two teams are coming from wins as Floriana egded Sliema Wanderers (2-1) while Birkirkara won against Sirens (2-0).
Maurizio Vella is suspended for Birkirkara while Floriana welcome back Ryan Camenzuli who returns from suspension and Jose Ulises Arias who missed the last game.
The first-round encounter went Floriana’s way with a minimum score of 1-0.

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

Ħamrun Spartans, in seventh place, face Gżira United in a match neither side can afford to drop points. The Maroons, six points behind leaders Floriana,  are coming from a 2-0 defeat against Hibernians. Brazilian striker Jefferson De Assis has left Gżira United to join a club in the United Arab Emirates while Brazilian Fernando Barbosa is suspended.  
Andrew Cohen is expected to return after missing the last game. Gżira coach Giovanni Tedesco might give a debut to Wilfried Domoraud which would see the latter face his former team. 
Soufiane Lagzir is expected to return for Ħamrun Spartans who held Gżira to a goalless draw in the corresponding first-round fixture.
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