The Malta Independent 21 February 2019, Thursday

BOV Premier League: Valletta could become sole leads as Hibs and Gzira meet in top match on Sunday

Henry Brincat Friday, 8 February 2019, 13:00 Last update: about 13 days ago

It should be another highly interesting weekend of Premier League football as the competition enters the 17th round of matches.

This weekend, we might see Valletta taking over the sole leadership as they face bottom club Qormi while the other title challengers, Hibernians and Gzira face each other tomorrow.

At present, Valletta and Hibernians are joint leaders with 37 points each. Gzira are in third place on 34 points, but are still unbeaten this season.

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TOP CLASH

Sunday’s clash between Hibernians and Gzira United should be the match of the week in so far as the battle for the title is concerned.

The Maroons have remained unbeaten in their 16 matches and will certainly be hoping to extend that record against the Paolites.

Gzira are passing through a somewhat lean period, however, as they have only managed three draws in their last three matches – against Tarxien, Hamrun and Sliema.

This time it should be even more difficult as Hibernians might prove to be a different kettle of fish.

The Paolites, in fact, were back in the picture the past weekend. In fact, after the defeat against Valletta, they went on to beat Floriana to maintain their top position alongside the citizens.

On Sunday, I expect a tight battle between two teams fighting for the three points, especially Hibernians who are aware that Valletta are firmly tipped to beat bottom club Qormi quite easily this evening.

 

OTHER MATCHES

After their defeat at the hands of Hamrun in mid-December, Valletta have come back strongly into the picture notching three very important wins against Sliema, Hibernians and Birkirkara.

There is no doubt that they are firing on all cylinders at present and bottom club Qormi are certainly aware of that.

The Yellow Blacks are quite unlucky to be facing such an in-form top side just a few days after beating Pieta in only their second win of the season.

Senglea Athletic, who have registered their straight wins from their opening three second round matches, will also be looking forward to stretch their current impressive run, if possible, with a victory over strugglers Pieta Hotspurs.

Senglea are undoubtedly one of the most improved sides in the competition and their victory against Balzan was certainly no fluke.

On their part, Pieta have now suffered six consecutive defeats and they have dropped to 13th place, only three points above bottom placed Qormi. They need to start winning points badly to improve upon their current lowly position.

Another team needing points badly to avoid relegation trouble is Mosta. After their 0-3 drubbing against Senglea they came back strongly with a 2-0 win against Tarxien. That win should give them more confidence for their forthcoming matches, but they still need to move further upo the table.

But this match comes at a time when Balzan also need the points badly in their quest to earn a berth in next season’s Europa League, possibly through a 3rd or 4th place in the league.

Sliema W. also hope to win three precious points as they meet the inconsistent ~St Andrews side.

The Blues did well to hold Gzira United to a 1-1 draw in last weekend’s derby clash, but they certainly need to do better against the Saints.

The latter are in 10th place on 17 points, but cannot yet say they are relatively safe with the teams below them all fighting hard to earn precious points.

The Hamrun-Tarxien Rainbows and Birkirkara-Floriana clashes should also be worth watching.

The Spartans are passing through a memorable season. They are a creditable 4th in the standings and apart from standing a good chance for the third place, they cannot as yet be ruled out as a possible title contender as well.

Against Tarxien, they start as favourites, especially after the latter’s poor performance in the 0-2 defeat at the hands of Mosta last weekend.

The Birkirkara-Floriana clash should also be a keenly contested tie with both teams eyeing a victory to return to winning form.

In their last matches, Birkirkara lost 0-2 against joint leaders and defending champions Valletta, while Floriana lost narrowly 1-0 against the other joint leaders Hibernians.

While Birkirkara are still in contention for 3rd or 4th place, the Greens are still occupying a lowly 9th placing with just 17 points and they also wish to see an improvement.

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