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Title contenders Valletta renew rivalry with Spartans

Published: 06-04-2018 10:40
CompetitionsBOV Premier League
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With three matches to go before the end of the 2017/18 BOV Premier League, the stakes can’t be higher for a host of teams who will be involved in important matches on matchday 24. Valletta, one point behind leaders Balzan, will renew their rivalry with Ħamrun Spartans on Sunday, a game that evokes memories of the epic clashes between these two clubs in the 80s and early 90s. The Citizens cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay in the hunt for the title. The clash with Ħamrun marks the start of a difficult run-in for Valletta who will meet Floriana and Gżira United in their last two matches. Ħamrun are safe on 34 points but they will be motivated to gain a positive result against one of of their biggest rivals as they look to end the season on a high. The first-round match between Valletta and Ħamrun ended goalless. Balzan will be aiming to increase the pressure on Valletta as they play Tarxien Rainbows at the Hibs Stadium on Saturday. A win for the Reds would represent another important step in their title quest but Tarxien also need the points to improve their hopes of avoiding relegation. Balzan will be without striker Alfred Effiong, suspended. In the first round, Balzan beat Tarxien 1-0.EURO HOPEFULS On Saturday, two teams with ambitions to play in Europe next season go head to head as Birkirkara face Hibernians at theNational Stadium. Down to sixth on 39 points, this match is Hibernians’ last chance to revive their European hopes. Birkirkara are five points above Hibs in fourth place, one behind Gżira United. Coach Paul Zammit will have to make do without Lucas Maia, suspended. Andrei Agius returns for Hibernians who won the corresponding first-round match 1-0. Sunday sees the return of one of the oldest rivalries in Maltese football as Sliema Wanderers take on Floriana in the opening match at the National Stadium. Only two points separate fifth-placed Floriana and Sliema Wanderers in sixth. Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte is suspended for John Buttigieg’s side. Floriana midfielder Steve Pisani returns from suspension but Clyde Borg is still out for the Greens. Floriana won the first-round match 1-0. Third-placed Gżira United have a tricky test as they face relegation strugglers Naxxar Lions in Saturday’s opening match at the Hibernians Stadium. While the Maroons are coming from a comprehensive 4-1 win over Senglea, Naxxar lost 2-0 to Floriana in their last outing. Gżira obtained a 3-1 win over Naxxar in the first round. RELEGATION FIGHTOn Friday, Senglea Athletic meet Mosta at the Centenary Stadium, a clash between two teams who are level on 23 points. Both teams will be looking for points to banish any lingering relegation concerns. Gonzalo Julian Leyton and Ivan Maric are missing for Senglea and Mosta respectively, bothg suspended. Captain Kurt Magro returns for Mosta and Jonathan Bondin for Senglea. Mosta won the first-round enounter 2-1. St Andrews face a must-win scenario in their match against Lija Athletic, who have already been relegated. The Saints ate third from bottom on 17 points, sandwiched between Tarxien on 18 and Naxxar on 16. Matthew Gauci returns from suspension St Andrews while defender Patrick Borg is back for Lija who held the Saints to a 1-1 draw in the first round. PROGRAMME Friday-06-Apr19:00Centenary StadiumSenglea Athletic vs MostaSaturday-07-Apr16:00Hibernians StadiumNaxxar Lions vs Gżira UnitedSaturday-07-Apr18:00Hibernians StadiumTarxien Rainbows vs BalzanSaturday-07-Apr16:00National StadiumLija Athletic vs St AndrewsSaturday-07-Apr18:00National StadiumBirkirkara vs HiberniansSunday-08-Apr16:00National StadiumSliema Wanderers vs FlorianaSunday-08-Apr18:00National StadiumValletta vs Ħamrun Spartans