The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

BOV Premier League: Tough matches for top three clubs as competition resumes

Henry Brincat Friday, 1 February 2019, 14:00 Last update: about 8 months ago

The Bank of Valletta Premier League resumes this weekend after the stoppage for the Malta FA Trophy round of Last 16.

It will be the 16th round of matches and it promises to be a highly interesting programme with the three top clubs facing tough challenges.

The programme gets underway this evening with the Balzan-Senglea encounter. Tomorrow, there will be four matches: Pieta-Qormi, Tarxien-Mosta, St Andrews-Hamrun and Floriana-Hibernians. On Sunday, Gzira face Sliema and Valletta take on Birkirkara.

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A glance at the standings shows Valletta and Hibernians leading jointly on 34 points, followed by Gzira just one point behind. Birkirkara are 4th on 28, while Balzan and Hamrun are next on 27. Sliema have dropped to 7th place on 26 points.

 

TOP CLASHES

It is obvious that the most awaited clashes are those facing the top three clubs.

Tomorrow, Hibernians will be seeking to return to winning form as they face Floriana who are still struggling to move away from the lower part of the table.

The Paolites are coming from a disappointing defeat to rivals Valletta and will therefore be eager to win all the three points at stake.

They also have to overcome the disappointment not only of their defeat against Valletta, but also for having their protest against the result of that math not upheld by the MFA Protests Board.

The Paolites are aware that the Greens could prove to be a tough nut to crack even if their placing in the standings is a lowly one by their normal standards.

The Greens showed some progress in their last two matches which they drew 1-1 against Hamrun and Sliema, but it will not be easy to beat the Paolites.

Tomorrow, other joint leaders Valletta will be meeting their rivals Birkirkara in what most enthusiasts consider as the Match of the Week.

It comes at a time when Valletta are riding the crest of the waves, while the Stripes are showing signs of a revival following a disastrous start to the competition. From this point of view, I expected this to be a very hotly contested match which should attract another bumper crowd to the Ta' Qali Stadium.

Birkirkara are no doubt a revamped side with the arrival of team director John Arne Riise, the former Liverpool and Norway player. Their recent signings have certainly helped to improve their performances and this culminated in their Trophy win against Hamrun which enabled them to reach the quarterfinals.

Moreover, they now have national team goalie Andrew Hogg also among their ranks, though they allowed international midfielder Jake Grech to join Hibernians

Valletta will certainly be hoping to carry their good form into this match as well as they will also be eyeing the three points.

Third placed Gzira will be facing their rivals and neighbours Sliema in a derby match that seems to be a tricky affair for the Maroons.

It will certainly not be easy to overcome the Wanderers who are seriously hurt after their elimination from the FA Trophy by lowly Mosta.

That defeat led to the departure of coach John Buttigieg and for now, it will be his assistant, Ivan Woods, who will be in charge.

This should also be a keenly contested encounter with Gzira aiming to maintain the pace with Hibs and Valletta and with Sliema doing their utmost to win the points, not only to regain confidence, but also to remain in the hunt for a place in European football next season.

 

DIRECT RELEGATION CLASH

The Pieta-Qormi match should also be worth watching as the two teams will be seeking important points, especially Qormi who are at the bottom with just 4 points.

This seems to be a final chance for Qormi to start collecting important points, if they are to keep their slim hopes of avoiding relegation alive.

Pieta are also aware that this is a very important match for them as the three points will help them in no small measure in their battle against relegation.

The other teams involved in this battle are Senglea, who have a difficult task against 5th placed Balzan this evening. The latter are still eyeing the 4th or 3rd place in the hope of earning a European berth next season via the League, although they can still do that by winning the FA Trophy.

Relegation-haunted Mosta also face a daunting task as they take on the in-form Tarxien Rainbows side.

Mark Miller's boys are full of enthusiasm following their elimination of Sliema Wanderers from the FA Trophy last week.

Now they will be hoping to continue on this trend to move away from the third from bottom place which could mean a decider against the third placed club in the first division at the end of the campaign.

The other match is the St Andrews-Hamrun Spartans encounter in which the Spartans seek to improve their 6th place, while the Saints, now seemingly safe in mid-table, looking to consolidate their 10th place.

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