All eyes on Valletta-Floriana derby on Sunday

Published: 29-03-2019 16:45
CompetitionsBOV Premier League
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Ħamrun Spartans vs Qormi (Friday – National Stadium, 7pm) The fixture between Ħamrun Spartans and Qormi kicks off matchday 22 of the BOV Premier League following the international break.  The two neighbouring teams are in search of points as Ħamrun are still in contention for a place in the UEFA Europa League while Qormi need a win to keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation. Both teams are expected to field their best formation. Goals by Triston Caruana and Karl Micallef, who made his senior debut for Malta in the 2-0 defeat to Spain, handed the Spartans a 2-0 victory in the corresponding first-round fixture. Tarxien Rainbows vs Senglea Athletic (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 2pm) This is a direct clash between two teams who are fighting to avoid relegation.  A win is a must for Tarxien and Senglea Athletic who are coming from wins over direct relegation rivals Qormi (2-1) and St Andrews (5-0) respectively. Argentinian defender Juan Cruz Gill is suspended for Tarxien but coach Josè Borg welcomes back Brazilian Jacson De Paixao Neponucenco from suspension. Another Brazilian, Romulo Silva Santos, returns from suspension for Senglea. The Rainbows won the first-round encounter 2-1. Gżira United vs Pietà Hotspurs (Saturday – Victor Tedesco Stadium, 2pm) Gżira United start as favourites to collect the three points as they face bottom side Pietà Hotspurs.  A win for the Maroons would cement their grip on third place and qualification to the Europa League. Coach Jesmond Zerafa must make do without Edison Zarate Bilbao, suspended, while the Hotspurs will be without Uchenna Umeh Calistus, Paul Chimezie and Irimiya Jalo Ishaya, who are also serving bans. Neil Pace Cocks returns from suspension. The first-round match ended in a 1-1 draw. St Andrews vs Balzan (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 4pm) The pressure is on St Andrews after slipping to third from bottom. Balzan occupy a mid-table position but their top-three hopes are remote as they trail Gżira by nine points. Their match against Gżira, played before the international break, ended goalless. Ivan Bozovic and Aleksandar Kosoric are suspended for Balzan while Ricardo Martin is back in the frame for the Saints. St Andrews won the first-round match 2-0. Hibernians vs Mosta (Saturday – Victor Tedesco Stadium, 4.15pm) Title challengers Hibernians have a delicate fixture against Mosta. While the Paolites, currently two points behind leaders Valletta, need a win to pile the pressure on the Citizens before Sunday’s derby, Mosta are also eyeing the points to widen the gap on the teams in the red zone. Nemanja Radojevic and Jake Grech are suspended for Hibernians while Jurgen Degabriele is sidelined after undergoing a cruciate operation. Taylon Correa Marcolino, Hibs’ leading scorer, returns from suspension. Mosta coach Mark Miller has no major selection issues. In the first round, Hibernians defeated Mosta 4-0. Sliema Wanderers vs Birkirkara (Sunday – National Stadium, 2pm) This is another direct clash as the two teams are still in the hunt for a top-three finish.  Sliema Wanderers are in fourth position, four points behind Gżira United and two ahead of Birkirkara in sixth place. A win for Sliema would effectively dash Birkirkara’s hopes of forcing their way into the top three. On the other hand, a win for Birkirkara would take them above the Wanderers. Birkirkara have midfielder Terence Agius suspended. The Stripes beat Sliema Wanderers 2-0 in the first round. Floriana vs Valletta (Sunday – National Stadium, 4pm) The derby between rivals Floriana and Valletta is the highlight of matchday 22. Although 25 points separate Valletta and Floriana, derby clashes are usually tight and hard-fought affairs. Valletta, two points clear at the top with five matches remaining, will be going all out to win and keep their title bid firmly on track. On the other hand, Floriana will be looking to disrupt their neighbours’ title run, knowing that a victory would lift the spirits of their fans in an otherwise up-and-down season. Valletta welcome back Raed Ibrahim Saleh from suspension but Rowen Muscat and Jonathan Caruana are doubtful. The corresponding first-round fixture ended in a 1-0 win for Valletta.