Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Title showdown as top teams Ħamrun and Hibs go head to head
Mar 1, 2021
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BOV Premier League
PHOTO: Joe Borg/MFA
PHOTO: Joe Borg/MFA

  • PHOTO: Joe Borg/MFA
  • PHOTO: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

All eyes will be on the clash between Ħamrun Spartans and Hibernians on Saturday as the leading duo go head to head at the National Stadium (kick-off 2pm).


This match has all the makings of a title showdown as only two points separate the top two teams with Ħamrun Spartans leading the way on 53 points with eight games remaining.

 

There is no doubt that Ħamrun and Hibernians have been the two outstanding teams this season and both are on a six-match winning run.

 

In their last outing, Ħamrun Spartans had the better of Gżira United 2-1 with goals from Franklin Sasere and Claude Dielna. For their part, Hibernians saw off the challenge of Żejtun Corinthians thanks to goals from Jake Grech and Gilmar.

 

A win for the Spartans would lift them five points clear at the top, in the process edging them closer to their first title in three decades, while three points for Hibernians would propel them to the summit, one point ahead of their opponents, and leaving the title issue wide open. Sasere is the Spartans’ leading scorer with 14 goals while Jake Grech tops the scoring charts for Hibs with 12 goals.

 

Honours were shared between these two teams when they met in the first round as the match ended 2-2.

 

Both Ħamrun Spartans and Hibernians reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy in midweek with wins over Xagħra United and Pembroke Athleta respectively.

 

Tarxien Rainbows vs Birkirkara (Saturday – Centenary Stadium, 14.00)

 

Birkirkara face Tarxien Rainbows in a match both teams need to win for different reasons. The Stripes are pushing for a top-three position while Tarxien Rainbows are fighting to avoid relegation.

 

Both teams are on a high as Birkirkara beat Floriana 2-0 in their last match, a win capped by two great goals from Paul Mbong and Luke Montebello. Tarxien Rainbows beat Gudja United 2-0.

 

Andre Paus, the Birkirkara coach, must make do without midfielder Claudio Bonanni, suspended, but defender Oscar Carniello returns from suspension.

 

Tarxien, who lost 3-0 to Birkirkara in the first round, are missing degender Carlos Conceicao, suspended.

 

In midweek, Birkirkara booked their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy with a 4-1 win over Għajnsielem while Tarxien Rainbows were eliminated by Gżira United 4-2 after extra-time.

 

Floriana vs Balzan (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 14.00)

 

Only three points separate Floriana and Balzan in the lower half of the standings with both needing a win to boost their survival hopes.

 

The Greens are 10th on 26 points, three ahead of Balzan who have a game in hand. While Floriana are coming from a 2-0 defeat to Birkirkara, Balzan gained a much-needed boost with a 5-1 victory over Sliema Wanderers.

 

Floriana are expected to be at full strength but Balzan will be without Stefan Dimic, suspended. Weverton Gomes is expected to return.

 

The first-round meeting between these two teams ended goalless.

 

Mosta vs Senglea Athletic (Saturday – Centenary Stadium, 18.00)

 

Mosta start as favourites to take maximum points against a Senglea Athletic side who, with only two points from 22 matches, are effectively doomed.

 

The Blues are sixth, 10 points clear of the relegation zone. A win for them on Saturday would all but seal their Premier League status and consolidate their top-six position. Mosta are beset by the absence of goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, Chris Evo Ememe and Zachary Brincat, all suspended, but Kevin Tulimieri and Clayton Failla return from suspension.

 

Mosta won the first-round encounter 3-1. In the FA Trophy, Mosta progressed to the quarter-finals following a 2-0 win over Santa Lucia while Senglea Athletic were knocked out 1-0 by Valletta.

 

Sliema Wanderers vs Gżira United (Saturday – National Stadium, 18.00)

 

Sliema Wanderers and Gżira United will be aiming to get back to winning form after finishing empty-handed from their last league outings.

 

The Blues went down heavily to Balzan, 5-1, while Gżira lost to leaders Ħamrun Spartans. The Maroons need a win to cement third place in the standings as Birkirkara are closing in. Three points are also a must for Sliema Wanderers if they are to stay in the hunt for a top-four position and potential qualification for the Europa League.

 

Maxuel Maia and Jackson Mendoza are out for Gżira, suspended, while Sliema Wanderers are missing midfielder Edmond Agius who serves a one-match ban. Alessandro Miles is back for the Blues, led by coach Andrea Pisanu.

 

The first-round match was a hard-fought affair with Gżira winning 3-2.

 

Lija Athletic vs Santa Lucia (Saturday – Hibernians Stadium, 18.00)

 

This is a potentially crucial match for Lija Athletic in their bid to boost their chances of avoiding the drop but Santa Lucia will also be very motivated to regain their winning touch as they look to steer further clear of the red zone.

 

Santa Lucia went down 2-0 to Mosta last weekend, their second consecutive defeat, while Lija drew 1-1 against Sirens. Both teams are expected to be at full strength.

 

Santa Lucia edged Lija 3-2 in the first round.

 

Żejtun Corinthians vs Sirens (Sunday – Hibernians Stadium, 14.00)

 

Żejtun Corinthians take on Sirens in a direct encounter between two teams in need of points to climb up the table and avoid a relegation dogfight.

 

Currently, Sirens are ninth on 27 points, four clear of Żejtun who have played a game less. A win for Sirens would further ease their relegation worries but the same goes for the Corinthians who have endured a rough patch lately.

 

Sirens coach Giovann Tedesco can’t bank on defender Jonathan Pearson, suspended, while his Żejtun counterpart Orosco Anonam will be without Neil Tabone and Christian Grech. On the plus side, Żejtun, who beat Sirens 4-0 in the first round, are boosted by the return of Thiago Bonfim dos Santos and Douglas Washington.

 

Sirens have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy after beating Marsa 1-0.

 

Valletta vs Gudja United (Sunday – Hibernians Stadium, 18.00)

 

Matchday 23 of the BOV Premier League concludes with the match between Valletta and Gudja United.

 

Valletta are breathing more easily after moving up to seventh following a difficult spell but the same cannot be said of Gudja United who have slipped into the bottom half after three defeats in a row.

 

Argentine wing-back Leandro Aguirre is suspended for Valletta but goalkeeper Henry Bonello is in line to return for the Whites who have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy after a 1-0 win over Senglea Athletic.

 

Gudja United, who are expected to be at full strength, will be looking to emulate their bold performance in the corresponding first-round fixture which ended goalless.

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