Naxxar, Balzan seek Championship Pool spot as first phase comes to an end this weekend

hibs-naxxar131109Balzan and Naxxar Lions seek precious points from Saturday’s clashes as they hope to secure in the Championship Pool. Balzan, who lie one point ahead of the Lions, face Valletta while Naxxar take on Hibernians.

In the other two matches, Vittoriosa Stars face Birkirkara while Sliema Wanderers meet Rabat Ajax.

Naxxar L. vs Hibernians, kick-off 14:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Despite losing the last three matches to Birkirkara, Balzan and Mosta, Naxxar will be all out to claim the three points as they take on Hibernians. Lying one point behind Balzan, Naxxar need to beat Hibernians and hope that Balzan would not go beyond a draw with Valletta. In case Naxxar earn a point in a draw with Hibernians, they hope Balzan lose to Valletta in order to force a decider.

Hibernians lie in third place and a win against Naxxar would ensure that they start the second phase on 24 points, three behind Valletta and four behind leaders Birkirkara if the latter two both win their matches. In their last outings, they defeated Floriana 4-0 and Qormi 5-3.

The Paolites should have Montenegrin defender Igor Radusinovic making his debut while Bjorn Kristensen will be back after serving a two-match ban. Clayton Failla is still suspended while Andrew Cohen is yet to recover from an injury. Naxxar, on the other hand, will be without the suspended Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro and Andrew Decesare.

In the first round, Hibernians defeated Naxxar 4-1.

Valletta vs Balzan, kick-off 14:00 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Balzan hope to earn a positive result from this game in view of securing a Championship Pool spot after missing out last season. Since they lead Naxxar by one point, Balzan need to emulate Naxxar’s result. In case of a defeat for Balzan and a draw for Naxxar, a decider would be necessary. Jesmond Zerafa’s side registered four wins in their last four outings, beating Floriana, Qormi, Naxxar and Tarxien.

Valletta cannot afford any result other than a win after beating Birkirkara if they aim at starting their Championship Pool commitments just one point behind leaders Birkirkara. In case of a draw, they would start two points behind Birkirkara. They defeated Vittoriosa, Rabat and Birkirkara in their last three matches.

Luke Dimech, Denni Rocha dos Santos and Lateef Elford-Alliyu are all recovering from injuries for Valletta. Defenders Steve Bezzina and Andrew Scicluna are ruled out through suspension for Balzan.

In the first round, Balzan held Valletta in a 1-1 draw.

Vittoriosa S. vs Birkirkara, kick-off 16:00 at Hibernians Stadium
After losing to Valletta in last week’s big clash, Birkirkara hope to return to winning ways as they take on Vittoriosa Stars. Should they beat Vittoriosa and Valletta beat Balzan, only one point would separate the two teams in the Championship Pool.

After beating Rabat in their last outing, Vittoriosa moved ninth on 18 points and will therefore start the second phase on at least nine points.

Gilbert Martin is suspended but they should have Italians Leonardo Torri and Daniele Messina making their debut. Birkirkara welcome back Joseph Zerafa who missed the Valletta clash but Edward Herrera is still ruled out injured.

In the first round, Birkirkara defeated Vittoriosa 2-0.

Rabat A. vs Sliema W., kick-off 16:15 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Sliema Wanderers target a fourth successive win as they take on bottom-placed Rabat Ajax who just collected three points in three draws from the last thirteen matches.

The Blues will be without the suspended Paltemio Barbetti, John Mintoff and Mark Scerri and the injured Abubakar Bello-Osagie. Rabat will be without the injured Dani Pelaez.

In the first round, Sliema defeated Rabat 4-1.

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