Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Crucial games for various teams this weekend
Oct 22, 2021
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General
BOV Premier League

While the match Valletta versus Hibernians is drawing most of the attention this upcoming weekend, the teams in the lower parts of the table are awaiting crucial games, which could set direction and shape expectations for the rest of the season. Teams like Hamrun Spartans, Balzan, Sliema Wanderers, Mosta and Santa Lucia desperately need a win to keep their top six hopes alive. 


Gudja United v Hamrun Spartans – 23.10.2021 (15.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium

The reigning champions Hamrun Spartans, who slipped to another damaging defeat against Gzira United (1-0), face Gudja United who were also defeated last weekend by Birkirkara, thanks to a brace from Leandro Aguirre. 

But the pressure is mounting on Hamrun Spartans and on their coach Mark Buttigieg after they suffered their fourth loss in six matches leaving them with only six points and trailing leaders Hibernians by 10 points.

In their last outing, the Spartans struggled to produce an offensive threat and the forwards received little service, unable to penetrate their opponents’ defensive wall. On top of that they lost playmaker Dodo Soares with a broken ankle, which will keep him our for the next 4-6 months. Apart from that, also national team goalkeeper Henry Bonello is still side-lined with injury.

The only good news for Hamrun was the return form injury of midfielder Matthew Guillaumier, who came on as a second half substitute. 

On the other hand, Gudja have nothing to lose and will face their opponents with the believe that they can hurt them with a cautious gameplan. But they will have to do without the services of influential defender Igor Dudarev, who is suspended. Last season, Hamrun beat Gudja twice in the MPL: 1-0 & 3-1, but the season before both teams played out two draws (2-2, 1-1). Gudja never beat Hamrun in history, eight matches played, six Hamrun wins and two draws.

 

Mosta v Floriana – 23.10.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium 

This will be the 40th encounter in history between Mosta and Floriana. Mosta are still located in the red zone, lock horns with third place Floriana. While last week, the Blues were denied the three points in the final stages when Dexter Xuereb drew level for Santa Lucia (2-2), the Greens secured an important 2-1 win over a solid Balzan side. This result gives them a bit of breathing room in third place, keeping the Greens seven points away from the league leaders.  The only negative for Floriana was the sending-off of Kristian Keqi late in the first half, which means he is unavailable tomorrow.

Mosta are facing a stern battle for survival and must raise their game, showing character and determination. A win could supply some extra oxygen for the team of coaching tandem Mario Muscat and Joe Grech, a hard task as so far, Mosta only won one match in the MPL this season. However, last season, Mosta managed to beat Floriana 2-0, which must give them some hope. 

 

Gzira United v Balzan – 23.10.2021 (20.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium

After defeating Hamrun Spartans, Gzira United’s moral and team spirit are surely bolstered as they meet Balzan who suffered their second successive defeat and the fourth of the season. They have now arrived in a precarious position om the table, just above the relegation zone. But a win against the Maroons could mount a new challenge to drift away from danger.  

Gzira produced a big performance against the reigning champions and although they were without influential captain Steve Borg, they defended with steel and determination, keeping the opposition at bay, managing their second clean sheet. 

Brazilian forward Yuri Messias’ header was the difference between to two sides. He is a natural goal scorer, capable of creating chances, an important player for Gzira. 

Borg is still nursing a groin problem for the Maroons while Augustine Loof is suspended for Balzan. However, centre-back Michael Johnson could return to action, as well as Uros Ljubomirac, who did not play a match since 12 September. They will be also without coach Mark Miller, who stepped down in the middle of this week. Balzan have so far not announced his replacement, which means that assistant Alejandro Pantoja will coach his side from the side line.  Last season, Gzira beat Balzan 2-0. In fact, Balzan did not beat Gzira since 20 October 2017, four years ago (2-1), Gzira won four of the last six meetings in the MPL and two draws. 

 

Santa Lucia v Sliema Wanderers – 24.10.2021 (15.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium

This is an encounter between the only two teams who are searching for their first Premier League win this season.

Last weekend, Sliema Wanderers slumped to their third defeat, losing 3-0 to leaders Hibernians. There is much work to do for Andrea Pisanu’s side, who lacked creativity upfront and looked vulnerable in defence. Even when the Paolites were reduced to ten players when Ferdinando Apap was given his marching orders, the Wanderers did not pose any serious threat.  

Santa Lucia fought hard and came twice from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw against Mosta last weekend. They were rewarded thanks to a resilient display even though they played with ten men for the last 18 minutes after Jurgen Pisani’s sending off.

Both teams will face-off for a much needed-win that would lift them out of the danger zone. 

This will be only the fifth time in history that the two will meet in an official match. Last season, the Blues beat Santa Lucia twice (3-1, 1-0). Santa Lucia beat Sliema once, which was in the 2019/20 FA Trophy (2-0).

 

Hibernians v Valletta – 24.10.2021 (17.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium

After they dismantled Sliema Wanderers in a 3-0 win, leaders Hibernians cross swords with Valletta who are also coming from a victory last weekend, a 3-1 win over Sirens. 

It is a stern test for both sides, a tricky encounter for Hibernians. The Paolites aim to stretch their unbeaten streak as from their last six outings they only dropped two points. With 15 league goals scored, they can boast with the best forward-line of the Premier League, with midfielder Jake Grech developing in one of the most consistent performers. Up front, Jurgen Degabriele has established himself as one of the best forwards and a natural goal scorer. During the last game against Sliema he bagged a brace and could have scored more.

The Citizens aim to continue to build momentum after an important win. They also hope Marco Fontanella will show the same verve after hitting a hat-trick against Sirens. But Hibernians coach, Stefano Sanderra, will have a plan in place to silence the Italian forward. 

Valletta welcome back defenders Joseph Zerafa and Ryan Camilleri from suspension, while Hibernians will miss the services of the suspended Ferdinando Apap. However, at the back they will welcome back Sergio dos Anjos. The match is a real classic encounter in Maltese football, the 246th meeting between the two, counting all MFA competitions. Last season, Hibernians beat Valletta 4-1. However, Valletta beat Hibernians five in the last ten official matches played.

 

Sirens v Birkirkara – 24.10.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium

Birkirkara play Sirens in a bid to keep pace with league leaders. The Stripes look well-equipped to match Paolites’ title credentials and are huge favourites to take all three points from this encounter. After being held twice by Floriana and Gzira United, they returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Gudja United to keep their second place intact … two points shy of Hibernians.

Last weekend, Sirens were defeated by Valletta (3-1). The penalty miss by Kemar Reid, when they trailed by a goal was the turning point of the match. Birkirkara hold a 100% record against Sirens. Last season, they beat the Blues 4-2 and the season before 2-0. They will be without the suspended Ryan Scicluna. 

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