The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

BOV Premier League: Tough matches for top two as campaign takes interesting turn

Henry Brincat Saturday, 8 February 2020, 11:00 Last update: about 17 days ago

The Premier League has taken an interesting turn the past weekend as Valletta's 1-0 win against leaders Floriana not only reduced the gap to just two points, but even put the title issue wide open providing hope even for Sirens, Hibernians and Gzira.

This weekend, the leading duo have tough matches with Floriana facing Gzira and Valletta taking on Balzan. Sirens will be meeting Hamrun Spartans, while Hibernians take on relegation-haunted Senglea.

The Gudja-Sliema encounter is a direct relegation clash while Tarxien will hope to maintain the positive trend when meeting Santa Lucia.

The other clash is the meeting between two mid-table teams, Birkirkara and Mosta.

 

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With the League becoming much more interesting now that Floriana suffered a second defeat, it is evident that all eyes will be on the two big clashes this weekend.

Floriana will be aiming to return to winning form when facing the Maroons in the hope that they remain sole leaders.

The Greens have been up there from the start of the season, but since the start of the second round, they lost two matches and their six-point lead has dwindled to just two points as Valletta did themselves and the remaining title challengers a world of good by beating the Greens last Sunday.

Vincenzo Potenza's boys, however, will have to play much better than they did against the citizens if they are to overcome the expected tough challenge from Gzira.

The Maroons, in fact, despite suffering a big setback against Sliema last weekend, will still be firmly in the running if they manage to beat the Greens as the gap will be reduced to just three points.

But even here, new coach Paul Zammit must find ways and means of how to make his players forget their miserable performance against the Wanderers where, for most of the time, they were inexistent.

The Valletta-Balzan clash should also be a keenly contested encounter.

The citizens are full of enthusiasm after their precious win against their arch rivals Floriana, but they must be aware that it will certainly not be easy to overcome the solid Balzan side.

Although the latter are in mid-table, it is a well known fact that they can provide any team with a formidable challenge.

The citizens have made a remarkable recovery after a slow start to the season. They are now very close to the top place and I expect them to continue with their strong challenge to retain the title.

Meanwhile, third placed Sirens seem to have a good chance of confirming their current placing, thus maintaining their hopes of eventually landing a historic berth in European football next season, as they meet the struggling Hamrun Spartans.

The latter are passing through a very disappointing period and with the way they are dropping points, it seems that it will not be long before they become embroiled in the relegation battle.

Hibernians have a good chance of forgetting their disastrous defeat against Sirens the past weekend, as they face Senglea tomorrow.

This is a chance for the Paolites to get back on track. They certainly cannot afford to miss the bus again.

On their part, Senglea are also in need of the points and they will obviously try to offer tough opposition to the Paolites.

Two other teams in need of points to move further up the standings are Sliema and Gudja who meet today.

Sliema did well to beat Gzira last weekend. In the process, they appeared to have improved a lot over previous disappointing performances.

On their part, Gudja were 2-1 losers against Santa Lucia in last week's direct clash, but they are aware that a win against Sliema will lift them above the same Wanderers.

Sta Lucia also seem to have a good chance to move further up the table as they take on wooden spoonists Tarxien.

The Saints must be considered favourites to take all the three points, but Tarxien showed last week that they have not yet thrown in the towel. Yet, despite their 3-2 win (their first victory of the season) against Hamrun, their task is one of the most difficult, if not impossible.

In the last match of the weekend, Mosta and Birkirkara meet in a middle of the table clash with the Blues determined not only to move into safer waters, but also to taste revenge for having been eliminated from the FA Trophy by the same Birkirkara.

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