The Malta Independent 20 January 2020, Monday

BOV Premier League: Valletta face Hibernians’ challenge in top weekend clash

Henry Brincat Friday, 6 December 2019, 13:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Bank of Valletta Premier League resumes this weekend with the 12th round after the break for the third round of the FA Trophy.

It should be another interesting weekend with the top clash being the Valletta-Hibernians match on Sunday at the National Stadium.

League leaders Floriana will be facing Sta Lucia, while their immediate followers - second placed Gzira - will be meeting Mosta while 4th placed Sirens come up against bottom club Tarxien Rainbows.

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A glance at the standings after 11 matches shows Floriana leading on 25 points, Gzira follow on 22, Valletta and Sirens 21, Hibernians 20, Hamrun 17, Balzan 14, Birkirkara and Mosta 13, Senglea 12, Sliema and Gudja 11, Sta Lucia 10 and Tarxien with no points.

 

TOP MATCH

The top match this weekend is undoubtedly the Valletta-Hibs clash (3rd placed v 5th placed).

Only one point separates the two clubs, but the importance of this game is mostly due to the fact that both sides are in need of the points, especially in the knowledge that the league leaders, Floriana, appear to have an easy match against last from bottom Santa Lucia tomorrow.

Valletta are coming from four wins and one draw in their last five matches while Hibernians had three wins, a defeat and a draw in their last five matches.

Also, both managed to qualify to the 4th round of the FA Trophy the past weekend, registering easy and comfortable wins against lower tier teams.

Both teams' current form should guarantee a keenly contested encounter.

Meanwhile, Floriana seem to have a good chance of returning to winning form as they take on Santa Lucia tomorrow.

The Greens figured in two consecutive draws against Hibernians and Hamrun in their last two league matches, but then they routed second division side Melita 6-1 despite playing with a mostly depleted side in the FA Trophy 3rd round match.

 

RELEGATION ISSUE

This weekend, we also have a direct relegation clash between 12th placed Gudja and 10th placed Senglea. Senglea are on 12 points, while Gudja have 11.

I also expected this match to be a keenly contested game with both sides going all out for the three points.

Both teams did well last week in their FA Trophy games. Gudja overcame first division side Lija Athletic 3-0 while Senglea were impressive in their 2-1 come from behind win against the more favoured Gzira United.

Also very interesting to watch will be the Birkirkara-Sliema encounter tomorrow.

Both sides have shown progress in their recent matches, but are still very much embroiled in the battle to avoid relegation at present.

Birkirkara are 8th on 13 points, just 3 ahead of 13th placed Santa Lucia. Sliema have 11.

The Stripes had to wait till the last moments to overcome a stiff challenge from Gozitan side Nadur Youngsters to advance to the 4th round of the FA Trophy, while Sliema fared worse as they were eliminated by a sprightly Santa Lucia side.

Another team in need of points to move to a healthier place is Mosta who will be meeting second placed Gzira in what should be a difficult encounter for the Blues.

Gzira, however, will need to return to the winning track after surprisingly going down to Senglea, therefore being eliminated from the FA Trophy.

Bottom team Tarxien seem to be already doomed with no points - a massive 10 below 13th placed Santa Lucia.

On Sunday, they face revelation side Sirens who will be eager to bag another three precious points to keep the pace at the top.

It should be another difficult encounter for the Rainbows who, however, showed some signs of a partial revival in their Trophy defeat (2-1) against Hamrun Spartans.

Also on the programme is today's Balzan-Hamrun S. encounter which kick starts the whole 13th round programme.

The two teams are occupying a relatively safe position in mid-table, but will obviously aim to get all the three points.

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