Hibs, Balzan out to earn maximum points from decisive clash

Following leaders Valletta’s 0-2 defeat to Floriana last week, Hibernians and Balzan will be all out to claim the three points in the direct clash between the teams lying in second and third place in one of the four matches in programme on Saturday at the National Stadium and Victor Tedesco Stadium.

Pembroke Athleta and Mosta eye precious points which would enable them to secure their status as they take on Floriana and Tarxien Rainbows while St. Andrews meet Sliema Wanderers hoping to return to winning ways.

Floriana vs Pembroke Athleta, kick-off 16:00 at National Stadium
Following their derby win over Valletta, Floriana will be all out to claim the three points on Saturday as they take on Pembroke Athleta. Although they lie six points behind fourth-placed Birkirkara, they could still overtake Birkirkara considering that on paper, the Stripes face three more difficult opponents. Pembroke, on the other hand, need three points to secure their Premier League status. In their last outing, they were held in a 1-1 draw by Naxxar Lions.

Pembroke could not count on the suspended Paltemio Barbetti while Emanuel Briffa is suspended for Floriana. However goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona is back after serving a one-match ban.

In the previous rounds, Floriana defeated Pembroke 2-1 and 4-2.

Hibernians vs Balzan, kick-off 18:00 at National Stadium
Hibernians would move, at least temporarily, at the top of the BOV Premier League table should they beat Balzan in a direct clash between the teams lying in second and third place. Following the defeat to Floriana, Valletta now lie just three points ahead of Hibernians and four ahead of Balzan. Meanwhile Hibs and Balzan extended their positive run to fourteen and fifteen matches respectively as they defeated Tarxien Rainbows 1-0 and Qormi 3-0. A win for Balzan would see Oliver Spiteri’s side moving second, two points ahead of the Paolites before Valletta take on Birkirkara in this weekend’s big match on Sunday.

The two teams are expected to be in full strength following the return of Alfred Effiong for Balzan after serving a suspension.

Hibs and Balzan shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the first round but the second round clash ended in a 3-2 win for the Paolites.

Sliema Wanderers vs St. Andrews, kick-off 16:00 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
St. Andrews eye precious points from the clash with Sliema Wanderers in the first of two matches between the two teams in four days as they would be facing each other in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy on Tuesday.

The Wanderers secured their Premier League status following back-to-back wins over Pembroke Athleta and Mosta. On the other hand, the Saints are still second from bottom, four points behind Naxxar Lions. After losing the last four games, St. Andrews cannot afford anything other than a win over Sliema in order to maintain hopes of avoiding the bottom two places and rest their hopes on the play-off.

St. Andrews coach Jose Borg will be unable to lead the team from the bench after receiving a hefty ten-match ban. For Sliema, Njong Priso will be back after serving a two-game suspension.

The Wanderers defeated St. Andrews 1-0 and 6-1 in the first two rounds.

Tarxien Rainbows vs Mosta, kick-off 18:15 at Victor Tedesco Stadium
With Mosta needing three points to secure their Premier League status, the Blues start as favourites to take the three points home as they take on a Tarxien Rainbows side lying in a comfortable mid-table position which is fully focussed on the FA Trophy quarter-final against Balzan which would lead the team to a historic spot in the UEFA Europa League this summer.

The Rainbows are yet to beat Mosta this season following two goalless draws in the first two rounds.

Tarxien will be unable to field their best formation due to the absence of the suspended Ebiabowei Baker and Carlos Hevia Menendez.