Leaders Valletta take on rivals Floriana in derby

Leaders Valletta start as favourites to extend the lead on top the BOV Premier League table as they take on eternal rivals Floriana in one of the two BOV Premier League matches in programme at the National Stadium on Saturday. Assisting for the derby will be UEFA President Michel Platini as part of his short visit to Malta.

The Citizens extended their unbeaten run to twenty matches with a 2-0 win over Sliema Wanderers in their last outing and thanks to Hibernians’ narrow defeat to Birkirkara, they now enjoy a three-point lead.

Floriana returned to winning ways last week as they beat Balzan Youths 3-1 last week and are now fourth on 24 points. Against Valletta, they cannot afford losing as they try to maintain the challenge for a place in European competitions this summer.

John Mintoff returns for Floriana but Duncan Pisani and Christian Caruana are ruled out through suspension. On the other hand, Valletta welcome back Edmond Agius and Roderick Briffa who had missed the last game but Alfred Effiong is stll ruled out through suspension while Michael Mifsud is still struggling to recover from an injury.

Valletta and Floriana met four times this season with the Citizens winning three of them – 2-1 in the Euro Cup, 3-0 in the BOV Super Cup and 1-0 in the Premier League first round. The second round clash ended in a 1-1 draw.

In the second match, third-placed Birkirkara seek the fifth win in six matches as they take on Sliema Wanderers in their bid to close in on Hibernians. The Stripes defeated Hibs 1-0 last week and are keen to extend their positive run with another three points which would enable them to stay clear of Floriana. Shola Shodiya serves a one-match ban.

Sliema are yet to register their first win in the Championship Pool after losing two games to Hibernians and Valletta, earning their only point in a draw with Balzan. Lying six points behind the Stripes, they cannot afford any result other than a win in order to revive their chances of a top-three finish. Anicet Eyenga is suspended but Mark Scerri will be back for the Blues after serving a one-match ban.

The Wanderers defeated Birkirkara twice this season with an identical 1-0 score.

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