Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Valletta, Gżira United eye three points to boost title quest
Feb 21, 2020
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BOV Premier League
Action from the first-round match between Valletta and Gżira United. PHOTOI: Joe Borg/MFA
Action from the first-round match between Valletta and Gżira United. PHOTOI: Joe Borg/MFA

Sirens vs Sliema Wanderers (Friday – National Stadium, 6pm)

 

This match could go either way with both sides determined to claim the three points. Sirens are only one point off the top and firmly in contention for a Europa League spot as well as a possible shot at the title.
 


Sliema Wanderers will be looking to steer away from the drop zone and build on last week’s narrow 1-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows which marked Andrea Pisanu’s debut as coach.

 

Both teams had a similar sequence of results in their last three outings with two wins and a defeat in between.

 

Sliema Wanderers coach Pisanu can rely on a full squad for this game but his counterpart Steve D’Amato will have to do without Nigerian forward Emanuel Okoye.

 

Sirens won the first-round encounter 1-0.

 

Tarxien Rainbows vs Floriana (Friday – Hibernians Stadium, 7pm)

 

Joint-leaders Floriana face bottom side Tarxien Rainbows in the only match at the Hibernians Stadium on Friday.

 

Floriana will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing second-round form so far with just one win in their last five outings where they lost three times. Nevetheless, the Greens are still well-placed to challenge for the title as they are sharing top spot with Valletta.

 

Brazilian midfield star Diego Venancio is available for Floriana after serving a one-match ban.

 

Matthew Tabone will be missing for Rainbows who welcome back in the side Brandon Muscat and Albanian Stiv Shaba who were both suspended for the defeat against Sliema Wanderers.

 

Floriana won the first-round match 2-1.

 

Gżira United vs Valletta – (Friday – National Stadium, 8pm)

 

The main attraction of Matchday 19 is clearly is the clash between title contenders Valletta and Gżira United, a match that should attract a sizeable crowd to the National Stadium.

 

Both sides will be vying for a win with Valletta looking to recover from the 4-1 loss to Birkirkara on Sunday while Gżira will be aiming to step up their title challenge.

 

The Maroons are three points behind Valletta and Floriana, so clearly at this crucial stage of the season they can hardly afford to drop points. New Gżira United coach Paul Zammit led his team to their first win under his charge last weekend as the Maroons beat Balzan 3-1.

 

Valletta recently appointed Italian coach Giovanni Tedesco as their new mentor, with the Italian taking over from Darren Abdilla. Tedesco will be making his debut as Valletta coach against his former team.

 

Gżira United took the points in the first-round match after a 3-1 win.

 

Mosta vs Ħamrun Spartans (Saturday – National Stadium, 2pm)


A mid-table encounter but an important one for both Mosta and Ħamrun Spartans as a defeat could drag them back into the relegation mix.

 

Ħamrun are currently seventh, only five points from the Relegation/Promotion decider spot. They will be hoping to build on two wins on the trot against Sirens and Senglea Athletic knowing that another three points would represent a massive step in their bid to secure their top-flight status as early as possible.

 

Mosta have lost their last two outings, so they will be looking to get back to winning ways to boost their survival bid. A win for Mosta would further shake up the bottom half of the table with more teams involved in this fierce battle to avoid the drop.

 

Mosta coach Mark Miller has a key player missing as Brazilian defender Rafael Morisco is suspended. Ħamrun Spartans, who can rely on a full squad, will be vying to atone for the 2-0 defeat against Mosta when the two sides met earlier in the season.

 

Gudja United vs Balzan (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 2pm)

 

Another clash between two sides in the bottom half of the table with only one point separating Balzan (22 points) and Gudja United (21).

 

Gudja are coming from two priceless wins, beating Sliema Wanderers (1-0) and Floriana (2-1). Coach Josef Mansueto is clearly bringing the best out of his players with Gudja United on track to keep their Premier League status in their first season among the elite.

 

Balzan are having a disappointing season, going down 3-1 to Gżira United in their last league match. They will once again be without Uros Ljubomirac, who will be serving the second of a four-match ban but keeper Kristijan Naumovski is set to return. Likewise, Anderson de Barros is back from suspension for Gudja United.

 

Balzan secured a narrow 1-0 win over Gudja in the first-round.

 

Birkirkara vs Hibernians (Saturday – National Stadium, 4pm)

 

A contest between Birkirkara and Hibernians is always eagerly-awaited amid expectations of an entertaining affair.

 

Hibernians are eyeing another win after beating Mosta 3-1 in their last outing, a victory that took them within one point of joint-leaders Valletta and Floriana who both lost last week.

 

For their part, Birkirkara are the team of the moment, having put together a positive run to revive their challenge for a European place. Their progress was evident last Sunday when they achieved a 4-1 win over Valletta.

 

Nevertheless, Birkirkara cannot rest on Sunday’s win as they will be looking to further narrow the gap from the leading teams.

 

Experienced player Roderick Briffa is expected to make his return for the Stripes following suspension. Hibernians will be without the suspended Leandro Da Silveira.

 

Birkirkara recorded a 1-0 win over Hibernians in the first-round match.

 

Senglea Athletic vs Santa Lucia (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 4pm)


Another direct encounter in the fight against the drop sees second-from-bottom Senglea Athletic locking horns with Santa Lucia who are four points above them.

 

Senglea Athletic are enduring a dismal run, winless in their last 11 league outings. A win is a must for the Cottonera side to keep alive their survival hopes.

 

They welcome the return of Elvis Sakyi while Santa Lucia are boosted by the return of Camilo Escobar with both players having served a one-match ban.

 

Santa Lucia will be eager to bounce back from their poor performance in their 2-0 defeat against Sirens and regain the form that saw them claim three wins on the spin in their previous three outings.

 

The first-round game between Senglea Athletic and Santa Lucia ended goalless.

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