●Rampant Floriana now face Hamrun Spartans
■ The Bank of Valletta Premier League resumes with another six matches between today and tomorrow.
The programme includes a number of interesting matches, but the encounter between Valletta and Hibernians should be considered as the top clash.
In other matches, current leaders Balzan and their immediate followers Birkirkara will be aiming to maintain their winning form as they face Gzira United and Pembroke respectively.
Floriana are also favourites to beat Hamrun tomorrow to maintain the pace near the top and St Andrews will also be aiming to repeat the form they showed against Sliema when they face Mosta.
In the other matches, Sliema will also eye a return to winning form as they take on Tarxien Rainbows who are four points above their opponents today.
As already said, the top clash should be that between Valletta and Hibernians. And after their midweek defeats at the hands of Floriana and Balzan respectively, neither side can afford another defeat. The position in the standings shows Valletta in third place, three points behind Balzan and Hibs are one further point adrift of Valletta.
It should be a very interesting battle between these two teams and I expect both coaches – Paul Zammit of Valletta and Mark Miller of Hibernians – to adopt an attacking approach in the hope of returning to winning form.
Of course, with the top two (Balzan and Birkirkara) favourites to win their clashes today, one cannot expect Valletta and Hibernians to throw caution to the wind as that would put them at risk of losing yet another top clash which could distance them further from the leading duo.
Valletta will have Leandro Aguirre missing through suspension.
Balzan are the surprise leaders at this stage, but considering everything, I think they deserve their top position in the standings.
Oliver Spiteri’s side has achieved two great results in their last matches – a come from behind 2-2 draw against Valletta and a 2-0 win against Hibernians.
These four points have enabled them to build up confidence ahead of their forthcoming commitments.
Their opponents today, Gzira United, have started the season on a very positive note. The newly-promoted club has acquired eight points so far and has been a tough nut to crack, but it could turn out to be a different kettle of fish when facing Balzan today, when they will also have Macheda Neto missing through suspension.
Birkirkara responded well to their defeat at the hands of Sliema last weekend as they returned to winning form against Mosta on Thursday.
Now they face bottom club Pembroke and should find little difficulty in disposing of this side which must improve considerably to start winning the required points to move up the standings.
Floriana are also eyeing another win from their match against Hamrun Spartans tomorrow.
Having disposed of Valletta in midweek, the Greens are bubbling with enthusiasm. They showed that they had forgotten all about their unexpected defeat against Tarxien and they are now looking forward to more positive results.
The Spartans also failed in midweek as they lost 1-2 to Tarxien Rainbows. Steve D’Amato’s side
P W D Balzan 5 4 1 Birkirkara 5 4 0 Valletta 5 3 1 Hibernians 5 3 0 Floriana 5 3 0 Gzira U 5 2 2 Hamrun S 5 2 1 Tarxien R 5 2 1 St. Andrews 5 2 0 Sliema W 5 1 0 Mosta 5 1 0 Pembroke A 5 0 0 will now hope to overturn the tide in their favour.
St Andrews must be considered as the surprise package this season – at least so far. In fact, they have already collected six valuable points when last year it took them over four months to start winning their first points though they eventually managed to save their status in a decider.
After their surprise 3-0 win against Sliema in midweek, they now have another commitment tomorrow from which they could win another three important points.
This time they face Mosta who suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Birkirkara on Thursday. Mosta are facing trouble at this early stage and unless they improve, they might find it difficult to move up the table. Moreover, Mosta have Adrian Caruana ruled out through suspension for this match.
In the final match, Sliema face another difficult hurdle in the form of Tarxien Rainbows.
The Blues were taken completely by surprise by St Andrews in midweek, but they were totally unimpressive as they were beaten 3-0.
Against the improved Tarxien, John Buttigieg’s side will have to play much better if they want to achieve a positive result.
The Rainbows have shown considerable improvement following the 1-0 defeat at the hands of St Andrews on 11 September. In fact, they won two matches in succession and now they are eyeing a third.
Action from last Thursday’s top clash between Balzan and Hibernians - Photo Michael Camilleri