Rivals Valletta and Birkirkara will be all out to claim maximum points on Sunday as the two teams cross swords in a clash between the teams lying in second and fourth place at the National Stadium.
The Citizens are currently second on 41 points, four points behind leaders Balzan, three ahead of Gzira United and four ahead of the Stripes. Therefore a win for Valletta would put them once again one point behind the leaders while a draw would leave them three points behind and Birkirkara seven points behind the leaders. For the Stripes, a win would mean that they would narrow the gap with Valletta to just one point and that with Balzan to five.
Birkirkara had an impressive run in recent weeks as they registered eight straight wins in which they conceded just one goal. On the other hand, Valletta are coming from a run of six positive results, which include two draws with Sliema and Balzan.
Photo: Copyright © Andrew Grima
Addressing the media on Friday, Valletta coach Danilo Doncic said “It is a very important game for both teams. Both teams need the points badly. We have big respect for Birkirkara. They are the in-form team, they have good players and a good coach.”
Although they lie four points ahead of the Stripes, Doncic stressed that his team will try to attack.
“We will try to attack. We have no other choice.”
“I think it will be a more open game than the game against Balzan. The team is showing progress and we are improving in attack,” added the Valletta coach.
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit, on the other hand, said “Considering where our team was a few months ago, the fact that the second-round match Valletta-Birkirkara is being considered a top game is already something positive for us.”
“Valletta are a team which constantly fights for the championship as this always remains their main objective. We have full respect for this strongly-talented squad.”
However Zammit added that this was just one of a series of important games they had in recent weeks.
“We knew we had to be more consistent when compared to the earlier part of the season. The players deserve the credit for putting the team where it deserves to be. ”
Birkirkara captain Nikola Vukanac said that although the team had a good run, this did not mean anything and that there are still several points at stake.
On the other hand, Valletta captain Ryan Camilleri said that few would have thought that Birkirkara would recover so well after such a poor start. However he stressed that although it was a very important match, there was still all to play for in the coming weeks.
In the first round, Valletta defeated Birkirkara 3-0.
Photo: Copyright © Antoine Busuttil
Meanwhile in the first match, Mosta take on Hamrun Spartans. The Spartans are currently eighth on 25 points, two ahead of Mosta. Although they lie in a mid-table position, they seek maximum points from this clash to move closer to securing their status as early as possible. Naxxar and Tarxien, who share the second place from bottom, lie on the 15-point mark.
Hamrun have gone five matches without a win, losing their last three matches to Balzan, Floriana and Gzira. Mosta, on the other hand, collected five points from the last three matches in a win over Tarxien and draws with Hibs and St. Andrews.
Tiago Souza da Silveira and Daniel Zerafa are ruled out for the Spartans as they serve a one-match ban.
In the first round, Hamrun defeated Mosta 5-2.