Euro challengers involved in direct clashesPublished: 12-03-2019 17:20
CompetitionsBOV Premier League
Hibernians vs Sliema Wanderers (Tuesday – National Stadium, 6pm) After rescuing a point at the death in their last encounter, a 1-1 draw against Ħamrun Spartans, joint-leaders Hibernians face another difficult encounter as they meet Sliema Wanderers who are coming from a 3-1 win over Mosta. The Wanderers are on a six-game unbeaten run – three draws and three consecutive wins. The Paolites must be in top form to bag maximum points from this game. Italian coach Stefano Sanderra must cope without the team’s top scorer, Taylon Marcolino, who is suspended. Sliema Wanderers coach Stefano Maccoppi is expected to field his best formation. In the first round, Hibernians beat Sliema 1-0. Pietà Hotspurs vs Floriana (Wednesday – Centenary Stadium, 6pm) Only a win would satisfy the needs of Floriana who are still looking to steer away from relegation trouble with six matches to go. The Hotspurs also need to embark on a winning run if they are to improve their fading prospects of retaining their Premier League status. Floriana figured in a goalless draw against Balzan last weekend while the Hotspurs went down 3-0 to Valletta. The Greens are strengthened by the return of defensive midfielder Emerson Marcelina. Umeh Calsitus Uchenna returns for the Hotspurs. In the corresponding first-round fixture, Pietà Hotspurs caused a surprise as they edged Floriana 2-1. Mosta vs Valletta – (Wednesday – Centenary Stadium, 8.15pm) Valletta start as favourites to gather the three points but Mosta can be tricky opponents. The champions are sharing top spot with Hibernians after their 3-0 win over Pietà. Mosta will be looking to make up for their 5-0 defeat against Valletta in the first round. Defender Massimo Sammartino returns for Mosta after missing the game against Sliema Wanderers. Valletta coach Danilo Doncic has injury concerns over Steve Borg and Matteo Picciollo. Birkirkara vs Ħamrun Spartans – (Wednesday – National Stadium, 6pm) This is one of the most-awaited fixtures on matchday 21 as Birkirkara take on fellow Euro hopefuls Ħamrun Spartans. The teams are separated by only two points with Ħamrun Spartans in fifth place followed by Birkirkara. They will be banking on the offensive capabilities of key players like Luke Montebello (Birkirkara) and Italian winger Kevin Tulimieri (Ħamrun Spartans). Maurizio Vella is back in the frame for Birkirkara while Spartans coach Giovanni Tedesco is expected to retain the same formation that started the match against Hibernians. Tedesco will be serving the last of a six-match touchline ban. Hibernians won the first-round game 2-1. Balzan vs Gżira United (Wednesday – National Stadium, 8pm) Balzan-Gżira is also expected to be a very interesting encounter. The Maroons are aiming to gain more points to strengthen third place with Sliema Wanderers now breathing down their necks in fourth. Balzan, who have all but dropped out of the title race, are nine points behind the Maroons. Only a win would revive Balzan’s hopes of a top-four finish. Serbian Nenad Sljivic returns for Balzan while Sacha Borg is back from suspension for Gżira. Senegalese Amadou Samb is still sidelined with a long-term injury for Gżira who beat Senglea 3-1 in their last outing. Gżira won the first-round encounter 3-0. Senglea Athletic vs St Andrew’s (Thursday – Centenary Stadium, 6pm) This is a direct clash between two teams whose main target is to avoid the drop. Only one point separates St Andrews and Senglea with both teams expected to go all out to return to winning ways and boost their survival prospects. While Senglea lost 3-1 to Gżira last week, St Andrews were beaten 2-0 by Qormi. Senglea are expected to be strengthened by the return of Japanese playmaker Taisei Markawa while the Saints will be without Ricardo Martin, suspended. Senglea Athletic had beaten St Andrews 2-1 in the first round. Qormi vs Tarxien Rainbows (Thursday – Centenary Stadium, 8.15pm) This is another important game between two teams in the lower half as Qormi face Tarxien Rainbows. Qormi are second-from-bottom on 13 points, six behind Tarxien who are in 10th place. A win for Qormi would rekindle their survival hopes as they would close the gap on the teams above them. On the other hand, a win for Tarxien would represent a significant step in their bid to keep their top-flight status.Davide Mansi returns for Qormi. Tarxien will be without Jacson De Paixao who is suspended after his red card in the 2-0 defeat to Birkirkara. Tarxien Rainbows won the first-round encounter 1-0.