The second round of the BOV Premier League kicks-off this weekend with leaders Hibernians seeking to extend their unbeaten run with a win over neighbours Tarxien Rainbows.
Champions Birkirkara are firm favourites to claim the three points as they take on a depleted Rabat Ajax side while Floriana and Naxxar Lions, Balzan and Vittoriosa Stars seek precious points from direct clashes.
Birkirkara vs Rabat A., kick-off 14:00 at Centenary Stadium
The Stripes are coming from four successive wins and a win over Rabat would ensure that they keep the pace with leaders Hibernians and stay ahead of third-placed Valletta. Although Zach Muscat is ruled out through suspension, Birkirkara welcome back Nikola Vukanac who re-joined the club earlier this month.
Rabat are currently anchored at the bottom of the table with four points from nine matches, losing 1-4 to Sliema in their last outing. Injuries and suspensions are a major concern for Rabat Ajax coach Steve D’Amato as Spanish duo Diego Carrillo and Dani Pelaez are suspended together with Shaun Gauci while goalkeeper Pavle Velimirovic, Joseph Caruana, Jonathan Bajada, Adam Smeir and Ryan Micallef are ruled out injured. Clifford Gauci returns for the Magpies after serving a one-match ban.
Floriana vs Naxxar L., 16:15 at Centenary Stadium
Floriana and Naxxar will be all out for the three points in a direct clash between two teams chasing a place in the Championship Pool. Naxxar are currently sixth on 14 points, followed by Floriana on nine points, despite having a six-point deduction. A win for Floriana would put them just two points behind the Lions.
Floriana defeated Qormi 3-0 in their last outing while Naxxar lost 1-4 to Hibernians.
Naxxar will be lacking Mattia Del Negro, Evaldo Silva dos Santos and Andrew Decesare who are all suspended while Louis Cutajar and Terence Scerri are injured but Angus Buhagiar will be back after serving a suspension. Floriana will be in full strength but since their last match, the contract of Gary Roberts was terminated by mutual consent while Daniel Bogdanovic obtained his release following a decision by the MFA.
Balzan vs Vittoriosa S., 14:00 at National Stadium
Together with Floriana and Tarxien, Balzan and Vittoriosa share the seventh place on nine points and therefore a win is a must for both sides in order to move closer to the top-six. After losing to Naxxar and Hibernians, Balzan bounced back with a precious 1-1 draw with Valletta. Vittoriosa, on the other hand, collected two points from the last five matches in draws with Tarxien and Naxxar, losing to Valletta, Sliema and Birkirkara.
Michael Camilleri returns for Vittoriosa after serving a one-match ban. Rodrigo Pereira should be back after recovering from an injury but Dani Miguelez, Firas Aboulezz and Mark Spiteri are still on the sidelines.
Hibernians vs Tarxien R., 16:00 at National Stadium
Hibernians target the three points from the derby as they aim at keeping a three-point gap ahead of champions Birkirkara. After being held in two consecutive matches, the Paolites are back on track with two wins over Balzan and Naxxar. The Rainbows have now gone five matches without a win but in their last outing, they held Mosta in a 2-2 draw.
Tarxien welcome back goalkeeper Nicky Vella but Andrew Agius and Marko Potezica are suspended. Jonathan Pearson serves a one-match ban for Hibernians.
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