After losing four points in two consecutive draws with Birkirkara and Mosta, Hibernians will be all out to return to winning ways as they take on neighbours Tarxien Rainbows on Saturday – the only team which held the Paolites in a draw during the first round.
Balzan seek a win over Pietà to keep the pace with the three top teams, Mosta and Sliema cross swords in a mid-table clash while Naxxar and Zebbug target precious points in a clash between two teams from the relegation zone.
Mosta vs Sliema Wanderers, kick-off 14:00 at Hibernians Stadium
One point separates Mosta and Sliema with Peter Smith’s side lying in sixth place on 25 points and the Wanderers seventh.
Mosta won just one of the last eight matches but are coming from a prestigious 1-1 draw with Hibernians. Sliema, on the other hand, collected just two points from the last four matches in two draws with Naxxar and Birkirkara.
Ryan Grech is available for Mosta after his one-match ban was cancelled over mistaken identity. Dyson Falzon is ruled out injured. For Sliema, new recruit Mateus Ribeiro dos Santos will be unable to face his former team as he serves a one-match ban. Stefano Bianciardi, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and Michael Mifsud are all recovering from injuries but Pedro dos Santos Calcado and Mark Scerri will be back after serving a suspension.
In case of a win, Mosta would start the third round on the 14-point mark while in case of a draw or a defeat, they would start on 13 points. Sliema would start on 14 points in case of a win, 13 in case of a draw and 12 if they lose.
In the first round, Sliema beat Mosta 4-1.
Tarxien Rainbows vs Hibernians, kick-off 16:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Hibernians hope to return to winning ways against their derby rivals in order to start the second phase on the 30-point mark – seven ahead of their nearest rivals in case Birkirkara vs Valletta ends in a win for either side.
Hibs are unbeaten in twenty-one matches but were held in two draws by Birkirkara and Mosta in their last two outings. In case of another draw with Tarxien, they would still start on 29 points.
Tarxien are currently eighth after obtaining three positive results – a win over Qormi and draws with Mosta and Floriana. In case of a draw or defeat, they would start the third round on 11 points while a win would put them on the 12-point mark.
Triston Caruana, Matthew Tabone and Carlos Menendez Hevia will be back after missing the last game through suspension but Ryan Sammut serves a one-match ban. Owen Bugeja, Firas Aboulezz and goalkeeper Sean Mintoff are recovering from injuries. New signing Mouhamed Soly could make his debut for the Rainbows. Hibs, on the other hand, welcome back Clayton Failla with new signings Luis Andre and Marko Rajic probably making it to the squad due to the absence of the injured Marcelo Dias and the suspended Rodolfo Soares.
In the first round, Tarxien held Hibs in a 1-1 draw.
Naxxar Lions vs Zebbug Rangers, kick-off 14:00 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
After beating Pietà and Qormi in their last two outings, Zebbug seek a third win in a row from this clash with Naxxar who failed to win any of their last six matches, losing four of them.
Zebbug lie just one point behind Naxxar and a win would put them on the 11-point mark in the third round. In case of a draw, they would start on 10 points and 9 if they lose. On the other hand, a draw or a defeat would make no difference for Naxxar as they would start on 10 points but a win would put them on 11 points.
Frank Temile should make his debut for Naxxar after joining the club from Qormi and Albert Bruce will be back after losing the last game but Emmanuel Ibok Edet is ruled out through suspension. Zebbug will be once again without the injured Carlo Monti.
In the first round, the two teams shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw.
Balzan vs Pietà Hotspurs, kick-off 16:15 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Despite lacking leading strikers Bojan Kaljevic and Gianmarco Piccioni, Balzan target a sixth win in seven matches as they face Pietà. Balzan were in excellent form as they defeated Valletta 2-1 last week. Should they beat Pietà Balzan would start the third round on 19 points, 18 in case of a draw and 17 in case of a defeat.
The Hotspurs lost to Zebbug and were held in a draw by Naxxar in their last two outings and a desperate for points as they are currently second from bottom. A win would put them on the 11-point mark in the third round. In case of a draw, they would start on 10 points and 9 if they lose.
In the first round, Pietà and Balzan shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.