Hibs, Balzan in direct clash for top spot

Champions Hibernians and the leaders at the end of the first round Balzan cross swords in a direct clash for the top spot in the BOV Premier League at the Victor Tedesco Stadium on Sunday.

Following a comfortable win over St. Andrews on Friday, Valletta lead the way with 25 points followed by Birkirkara, who were held in a draw by Naxxar on Saturday and Balzan on 23 and Hibernians on 22.

After an impressive campaign last season, the Paolites failed to keep the same momentum this year and although they lost just one game, they dropped points in four draws – including the 1-1 draw with Balzan in the first round. On the other hand, Balzan had a fine run of eight positive results before suffering two defeats to Floriana and Birkirkara but bounced back with a win over Sliema in their last league outing.

Another win on Sunday would give Balzan sole leadership while a win for the Paolites would put Branko Nisevic’s side on level points with Valletta.

Hibernians are expected to be in full strength apart from Jean Paul Farrugia. Bojan Kaljevic and Ryan Fenech are still ruled out for Balzan.

Meanwhile in the first match, Floriana could move joint-second or third should they beat Mosta.

Two points separate the two teams with Floriana lying in sixth place on 20 points, followed by Mosta on 18.

The Greens lost just one of the last nine matches, beating Balzan and holding Birkirkara in a draw. Mosta, on the other hand, are unbeaten in three matches following a 2-0 win over Pembroke, a 2-2 draw with Valletta and a goalless draw with Tarxien.

Hassan Y’au is ruled out through suspension for Mosta but Ian Zammit will be back after serving a three-match ban. Steve Pisani is available for Floriana after his one-match ban was lifted.

Former Nigerian international Onyekachi Donatus Okonkwo is expected to make his debut for the Blues.

Mosta beat Floriana 2-1 in the first round.