Six months after the game between Gzira United and Birkirkara on March 8 turned out to be the last game from the BOV Premier League 2019/20 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOV Premier League will be back on Saturday with two matches which will kick-off the 2020/21 campaign.
It was only on July 1st that clubs could resume training and therefore pre-season training after three months of inactivity was far from ideal. To make matters worse, positive cases or mandatory quarantine at a number of clubs continued to hamper preparations for this coming season. Most teams were only able to play just a couple of friendly matches.
Zejtun Corinthians and Lija Athletic were promoted to the Premier League while the fourteen teams in last season’s campaign retained their place as even Tarxien Rainbows, who had already been mathematically relegated to Division 1, were re-instated following a decision of the Council of the Malta Football Association.
This will therefore be no normal season – first of all, due to the fact that sixteen teams will make up the BOV Premier League 2020/21, the fact that four clubs will be relegated and the team ending fifth from bottom will take part in the play-off, the unusual kick-off times and above all, considering the rigid protocol which has to be enforced in order to safeguard all those involved in the game.
For the time being, matches will be played behind closed doors but at least, fans will be able to watch games thanks to the new live-streaming service being offered by the Malta Football Association at https://live.mfa.com.mt/ apart from the usual two weekly matches which are broadcast on TVM 2 and/or TSN.
The two matches which will kick-off this season’s campaign are Zejtun Corinthians vs Santa Lucia and Mosta vs Gudja United.
Zejtun Corinthians vs Santa Lucia at Centenary Stadium, kick-off 17:00
After winning their first ever promotion to the Premier League, Zejtun will be aiming for a positive start to their campaign. The team led by coach Orosco Anonam has been strengthened with the signing of several players.
New faces at Zejtun include Gianluca Bugeja, Edward Herrera, Diego Albanese, Lucas Gama Moreira, Anderson Francisco de Barros, Ricardo da Silva Faria, Kemar Reid, Ibrahim Kone, Thiago Bonfim dos Santos and Fernando Jose Gomez Junior. On the other hand, goalkeeper Christian Cassar, Adrian Carabott, Neil Tabone, Brooke Farrugia, Dylan Agius, Gillmore Azzopardi, Jurgen Suda, Robeiro Nascimento and Marcelo Muniz all agreed to stay with the club.
Santa Lucia also went through a number of changes after collecting 23 points from the twenty matches played last season. Oliver Spiteri will once again lead Santa Lucia. They lost most of last season’s players but managed to sign goalkeeper Andreas Vella, Christopher Farrugia, defender Andreas Vella, Jamie Zerafa, Michael Camilleri, Kieran Xuereb, Liam Mckay, Romario Camilleri, André Fausto Prates Rodrigues Júnior, Gláucio José de Araújo Silva. Izaías Junio Duarte da Silva, Victor Luiz Prestes Filho, Leandro Motta and Alan da Silva Souza.
For both clubs, securing Premier League status will be the main objective.
Mosta vs Gudja United at Centenary Stadium, kick-off at 21:15
Led by technical director Mario Muscat and coach Davor Filipovic, Mosta aim at doing better this season. Muscat and Filipovic replaced Mark Miller. They signed Clayton Failla, Johann Bezzina, Dejan Debono, Andrei Spiteri, Jeferson de Sousa Ferreira, Nikola Braunovic, Nixon Darlanio Reis Cardoso, Kevin Tulimieri and Bojan Kaljevic while Matias Muchardi, Rafael Morisco, Christ Ememe, Santiago Martinez and Gabon national team goalkeeper Yves Stephane Bitseki Moto were retained.
On the other hand, Gudja, in their maiden season in the Premier League 2019/20, won six and drew another six matches for what was quite a positive season. Retaining Premier League status should be the club’s main objective. Coach Josef Mansueto left the club and Jesmond Zammit took over as the new coach. They signed goalkeepers Jamie Azzopardi and Daniel Farrugia, Dale Camilleri, Goran Adamovic, Tensior Gusman, Terence Vella, Patrick Silva Mota, Yuri de Jesus Messias and Augusto Rene Caseres and confirmed James Brincat, Aidan Friggieri, Jurgen Farrugia, Gabriel Mensah, Imanol Gonzalez Benac and Juan Andres Bolanos.