Precious points will be at stake as the BOV Premier League resumes on Saturday after a break due to Christmas and the New Year.
Valletta hope to return to winning ways as they take on Tarxien Rainbows, Vittoriosa Stars face Naxxar Lions and Sliema Wanderers take on Mosta in two direct clashes for a place in the Championship Pool while Qormi meet bottom-placed Rabat Ajax.
Vittoriosa S. vs Naxxar L., kick-off 14:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Naxxar Lions cannot afford anything other than the three points as they take on Vittoriosa Stars. Winston Muscat’s side defeated Tarxien and Valletta in their last two outings and are currently joint-sixth with Floriana, one point behind Mosta. A win would enable them to stay on track for a historic place in the Championship Pool. However Vittoriosa, fresh from their win over Qormi seek the three points in order to climb further up in the table. They are currently second from bottom on twelve points.
Siraj Arab returns for Vittoriosa after serving a suspension. Italian defender Federico Santaguida, who joined Vittoriosa from Qormi, is expected to make his debut but Jose Filipe Aguilar is suspended. Naxxar could not count on the suspended Andre Rocha da Silva. Since their last match, Naxxar released Louis Cutajar and Ousseni Zongo.
In the first round, the two teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Valletta vs Tarxien R., kick-off 16:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Following a shock defeat to Naxxar, Valletta will be hoping to bounce back as they take on Tarxien. The Citizens are currently four points behind leaders Birkirkara. Tarxien have gone four matches without a win and are currently third from bottom but managed to obtain a draw from their last outing against Sliema.
For Valletta, Steve Borg and Ryan Fenech are suspended, Latif Elford-Alliyu is injured while Aziz Corr Nyang is yet to return to Malta. Over the past days, Kurt Magro and Manuel Bartolo joined Balzan, Dyson Falzon moved to Mosta and Yessous Camilleri joined First Division side Zebbug Rangers. Roderick Briffa will be back after serving a one-match ban. Josef Mifsud returns for Tarxien who may have Norwegian Kai Risholt in squad but Steve Bonnici and Ronaille Calheira Seara are suspended. The Rainbows have released Everton Souza Santos.
In the first round, Valletta defeated Tarxien 3-0.
Rabat A. vs Qormi, kick-off 14:00 at Centenary Stadium
Led by new coach Karel Zeman, Qormi hope to collect the three points in their bid to maintain the challenge for a Championship Pool spot after a most disappointing defeat to Vittoriosa in their last outing. The Magpies have gone eight matches without a win, collecting just two points in the process. They lost 3-2 to Floriana in their last game.
Goalkeeper Pavle Velimirovic should return for Rabat but they lost midfielder Clifford Gauci who joined Zebbug and Moises Avila Perez who was released. Adam Smeir is still recovering from an injury but Ivan Carapic returns after serving a suspension. Following the departure of coach Tommaso Volpi, Riccardo Innocenti was released while Federico Santaguida joined Vittoriosa.
The first round clash ended in a goalless draw.
Sliema W. vs Mosta, kick-off 16:15 at Centenary Stadium
Under the guidance of new coach Enrico Piccioni, Mosta will be hoping to move back on track with a positive result against Sliema Wanderers in their bid to secure a top-six finish. Seven points separate the two teams with the Wanderers lying in fourth place on 29 points and Mosta fifth on 22.
Sliema won just one of the last four matches to lose ground with the teams on top, being held in a draw by Tarxien in their last outing. Mosta, on the other hand, suffered two defeats to Birkirkara and Balzan.
Dyson Falzon is set to make his debut for Mosta as he joined the club on loan from Valletta.
In the first round, Mosta defeated Sliema 3-2.
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