The final phase of the BOV Premier League gets underway on Saturday with two matches at the Hibernians Stadium and another two at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Balzan face a tricky Pembroke Athleta test, Hibernians take on Qormi, Floriana meet Naxxar Lions while Tarxien Rainbows take on Sliema Wanderers.
Balzan vs Pembroke Athleta, kick-off 14:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Third-placed Balzan will be aiming for a seventh consecutive win as they take on a Pembroke Athleta side lying in the eighth place. Balzan, who defeated Birkirkara and Floriana in their last two outings, lie just four points behind leaders Valletta and another win on Saturday would ensure they keep the pressure on the leaders and on champions Hibernians. Pembroke, on the other hand, shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw with Mosta last week and eye another positive result to close in on the Blues.
Balzan defender Elkin Serrano and Pembroke midfielder Kyle O’Brien are ruled out through suspension. Ryan Fenech is injured for Balzan while Pembroke could not count on the injured Patmore Shereni and Leighton Grech.
In the first round, Balzan defeated Pembroke 5-1 with the second round clash ending in a goalless draw.
Hibernians vs Qormi, kick-off 16:00 at Hibernians Stadium
Hibernians would move, at least temporarily, in first place should they beat Qormi who are coming from a most disappointing run of seven consecutive defeats.
The Paolites lie two points behind the leaders and collected maximum points from the last two matches after defeating Sliema 2-1 and Birkirkara 2-0. Qormi, on the other hand, conceded twenty seven goals and scored just five in the last seven matches, failing to score any in the last four games.
Marcelo Dias is suspended while Rui da Gracia, Jorginho and Jorge Santos Silva are ruled out injured. However Clayton Failla could be back.
Hibs defeated Qormi 2-1 and 4-2 in the first two rounds.
Floriana vs Naxxar Lions, kick-off 14:00 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
Following a narrow defeat to Birkirkara, Floriana hope to bounce back with a win over a Naxxar Lions side which won two out of the last three matches as they defeated Qormi and Sliema. A win would enable Luis Oliveira’s side to leapfrog fourth placed Birkirkara. Naxxar, on the other hand, eye a positive result in their bid to move further away from Qormi and St. Andrews.
Antonio Monticelli and Enrico Pepe will be back after serving a one-match ban but Juninho Cabral and Mauricio Villa are ruled out through suspension. Ryan Grech is suspended for Naxxar.
Floriana defeated Naxxar 1-0 in the first round and 2-1 in the second.
Tarxien Rainbows vs Sliema Wanderers, kick-off 16:15 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
After suffering consecutive defeats to Floriana, Birkirkara, Balzan, Hibs and Naxxar, Sliema Wanderers hope to halt their losing streak with a positive result against Tarxien. This string of disappointing results led to the termination of coach Stephen Azzopardi’s contract and caretaker coach Ivan Woods will be leading the team for Saturday’s clash.
Tarxien dropped two points in a draw with St. Andrews and are therefore keen to return to winning ways in order to keep the pace with teams on top. Ebiabowei Baker returns for Tarxien after serving a suspension.
In the first two rounds, Tarxien defeated Sliema 2-0 and 3-2.