Champions Hibernians hope to close in on leaders Valletta as they take on Birkirkara at the National Stadium on Sunday in this weekend’s big match from the BOV Premier League. A match which brings to an end the second round, leading to the third round and the halving of points obtained in the first phase.
Hibs are currently second on 47 points, six behind Valletta, while Birkirkara share third place with Balzan on 42. The Paolites won four of the last five matches, defeating Sliema 2-1 last weekend, while Birkirkara’s positive run was brought to an end last week as they lost 0-1 to Balzan.
With points being halved for the beginning of the third round, a win for the Paolites would put Branko Nisevic’s side just two points behind leaders Valletta. A draw or a defeat would make no difference as they would still start on the 24-point mark, three behind the Citizens. On the other hand, for Birkirkara, a win would put them on 23 points – four behind Valletta and one behind Hibernians, a draw on 22 while a defeat on 21.
Hibs welcome back Jonathan Pearson and Gilmar but Rui da Gracia Gomes and Clayton Failla are ruled out injured. Goalkeeper Justin Haber could be named for the first time in the squad following his switch from Birkirkara while the presence of Andrew Cohen is in doubt as he was recovering from an injury. Birkirkara, on the other hand, could not count on Edward Herrera and Ryan Scicluna.
In the BOV Super Cup, Hibs defeated Birkirkara 2-1 while the first round clash ended in a 1-1 draw.
Meanwhile in the first match on Sunday, Balzan take on Floriana in a clash between two teams aiming for a place in the UEFA Europa League this summer.
Five consecutive wins, including last week’s 1-0 win over Birkirkara, put Oliver Spiteri’s side in joint-third place, three points ahead of Floriana. The Greens lost two of the last five matches but defeated Pembroke 4-2 last week.
A win for Balzan would put them on the 23-point mark in the beginning of the third round, four behind Valletta; a draw on 22 and a defeat would leave them on 21. On the other hand, should they beat Balzan, Floriana would move on the 21-point mark, a draw and a defeat on 20.
The Greens could not count on the suspended Enrico Pepe and Antonio Monticelli apart from the injured Jurgen Pisani. Ryan Fenech, on the other hand, is ruled out injured for Balzan.
Floriana defeated Balzan 2-0 in the first round.