Malta Football Association
MPL top of the table clash tomorrow
Oct 29, 2021
Posted in:
BOV Premier League
(c) Domenic Aquilina
(c) Domenic Aquilina

  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Joe Borg
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina

Weather permitting, Match Day 8 of the 2021/22 BOV Premier League promises to be an exciting one, with tomorrow's first match at the Tony Bezzina Stadium being the classic encounter between the numbers one and two of the table, Hibernians and Birkirkara. Floriana and Gzira United are also crossing swords, another very important clash for both teams with much at stake. 

Birkirkara v Hibernians – 30.10.2021 (15.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium

This standout fixture is the match everyone has been waiting for. The best two teams lock horns where Hibernians will be seeking to prolong their unbeaten run and open a six-point advantage at the top of the table. On the other hand, Birkirkara aim to bounce back after having surrendered a two-goal lead and were defeated 3-2 by Sirens. 

Although the Paolites were held to a 1-1 draw against Valletta they still increased the advantage to three points. Now the pressure is on the Stripes. If they are to be title contenders, they will need to claim maximum points from this encounter and also re-open the title race.  But should Hibernians win, it would be an indication that they might canter away with the title. 

Both teams have all the players available as Ryan Scicluna (Birkirkara) and Hibernians defender Ferdinado Apap return to action from suspension. Interesting to note is that Birkirkara came out victors during the last three Premier Division matches. Last season, Claudio Bonanni scored the all-important goal in a 1-0 victory, while the season before, Birkirkara beat Hibernians twice; 1-0 & 2-1. The last time Hibernians beat Birkirkara was on 5 April 2019 (3-2).

Valletta v Santa Lucia – 30.10.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium 

Valletta play Santa Lucia who are still seeking for a win. Last weekend, the Citizens shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw against leaders Hibernians who were the better team in the first half by controlling possession and deservedly took the lead after they were denied by the post. 

But after the break, the Lilywhites posed a consistent threat and levelled through substitute Shaun Dimech to rescue a deserved draw. 

Santa Lucia are coming from a goalless draw against 10-man Sliema Wanderers following a lacklustre display as they struggled to build enough pressure to break through. Now they face a resurgent team. After a negative start to the campaign, Valletta have upped their game and start as firm favourites to earn the three points. A defeat for Santa Lucia would leave them at the border of the relegation zone. On a positive note, defender Jurgen Pisani will return from suspension. Last season, Valletta beat Santa Lucia 1-0 in their 2nd round match, while during the 1st round match, both teams kept each other in balance with a 1-1 draw.

Hamrun Spartans v Sirens – 30.10.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium

Hamrun Spartans take on Sirens who both notched a victory in their previous match. 

The reigning champions registered a comfortable 3-1 win against Gudja United which moved them to into sixth place but are still eight points behind leaders Hibernians. Inspired by Matthew Guillaumier, the Spartans produced their best performance, regained composure with good technique and decision-making and controlled for long periods. This win could be the prelude to mount a decent challenge for the title.

On the other hand, Sirens turned a defeat into a 3-2 victory against Birkirkara. Their perseverance and resilience paid off with two goals within four minutes that literally stunned the Stripes who collapsed in the second half … and now are sitting comfortably in third place.

But Sirens will face the Spartans without two influential players, Kemar Reid and Degran Jackson, who were both sent off against Birkirkara. Hamrun’s goalkeeper Henry Bonello could feature in this fixture as his progress from an ankle injury is going faster than expected. Hamrun’s confidence should be also boosted by the fact that they won all their six encounters against Sirens in history, a rare 100% mutual record.

Balzan v Gudja United – 31.10.2021 (15.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium

Balzan will meet Gudja United after staging a comeback to beat Gzira United 2-1, escaping the relegation zone. They appeared to be heading for a third consecutive defeat but two goals in two minutes cancelled out the Maroons’ advantage. A win against Gudja would lift Balzan into a more comfortable position in the table. New coach Paul Zammit should make his debut for his new club on Sunday.

On the other hand, a win could turn things for Gudja because the pressure is on them after two successive defeats as they sit only one point above relegation. 

Both teams have a player returning from suspension – Augustin Loof for Balzan and Igor Dudarev for Gudja. Last season, Gudja surprised Balzan with a 3-2 win, which was their first win over Balzan since 2006.

Floriana v Gzira United – 31.10.2021 (17.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium

This is an encounter between two team struggling for consistency. Out of seven outings, they registered only two victories. While Floriana were held to a 1-1 draw by Mosta last weekend, while Gzira were defeated by Balzan 2-1. 

Both teams cannot afford to lose because they need to be moving up the table, a defeat would spell trouble as they need to keep in contact with the top teams to avoid ending up in the lower parts of the ranking. This should be a balanced meeting and could go either way. However, Floriana have beaten Gzira only twice (from 11) since the latter’s promotion to the Premier in 2016, which was last season’s 1st round encounter (2-1). Gzira won the 2nd round encounter 4-1, which was their largest victory over the Greens in history.

The team of Gianluca Atzori welcomes back Kristian Keqi from suspension but will be without the suspended Nicolas Garcia and Augusto Caseres after collecting four yellow cards. In the meantime, Maroons’ defender, Steve Borg, is still sidelined nursing an injury. 

Sliema Wanderers v Mosta – 31.10.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Centenary Stadium

All eyes will be again on rock-bottom Sliema Wanderers after their disappointing Premier League campaign. They face Mosta and are still looking for their first win of the season. They should also address their weaknesses especially upfront as in four outings (out of seven) they were unable to find a breakthrough and failed to score. With five goals scored, they are the least scoring outfit in the Premier Division. 

On a positive note, in the goalless draw against Sta Lucia they produced a display of remarkable resistance with ten-man after Danny Holla was sent off in the 25th minute for dangerous play. 

Mosta rescued a point in a 1-1 draw against Floriana thanks to a Rafael Morisco volley in the dying minutes. But the Blues have an attacking edge over the Wanderers and they should start as favourite, also looking at the fact that Mosta beat Sliema during the last two seasons: 3-1 last season and 1-0 the seasons before. The last time Sliema beat Mosta was on 8 March 2019 (3-1).

Sliema will be without the suspended Holla and Dejan Vukovic, while Jonas Ekani Rodriguez will not play for the same reason for Mosta.

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