Tough matches for ti­tle chal­lengers

●Balzan face Sliema, Hiber­ni­ans meet neigh­bours Tarx­ien in deby clash, Birkirkara take on Flo­ri­ana and Val­letta play against Ħam­run ●Two di­rect matches in rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle: St An­drews Gżira and Mosta - Pem­broke

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Henry Brin­cat Na­tional Sta­dium

The Premier League en­ters its 11th round of matches be­tween to­day and to­mor­row – there will be no matches on Sun­day – where the top four clubs will be facing tough clashes. The pro­gramme starts to­day with the Sliema-Balzan and Flo­ri­anaBirkirkara matches. To­mor­row, there will be four games, that is, Tarx­ien-Hiber­ni­ans, Ham­runVal­letta, St An­drews-Gzira and Mosta-Pem­broke. It is ob­vi­ously a very in­ter­est­ing pro­gramme – the last of the first round. Lead­ers Balzan will have to do much bet­ter than they did against Tarx­ien last week­end as they face Sliema in the pro­gramme opener this evening. Then, Balzan were held to a 2-2 draw by the Rain­bows who were only thwarted from tak­ing all the three points by Nafti who saved Balzan’s blushes by scor­ing a very late equaliser. On that day, Balzan showed that their form has some­what de­clined since that dis­as­trous 3-0 de­feat at the hands of Birkirkara. Sliema also failed to main­tain their good form – five con­sec­u­tive wins which had rock­eted them to sixth place in the stand­ings. Last week­end, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Mosta and they will also have to show bet­ter form if they are to en­ter­tain hopes of beat­ing the lead­ers. In to­day’s sec­ond match, Birkirkara will be aim­ing to re­turn to win­ning form when they meet Flo­ri­ana. The Stripes’ hopes were dented by Hiber­ni­ans the past week­end as the Pao­lites snatched all the three points af­ter scor­ing through an in­ex­is­tent penalty awarded to them near the end. It was a harsh re­sult for the Stripes, but they will have to be at their best to­day as Flo­ri­ana have al­ways been tough op­po­nents to them. The Greens did well last week­end to earn all the three points from their clash against Gzira, but their per­for­mance was far from con­vinc­ing and they will also have to show im­prove­ment if they are to sur­prise the Stripes. To­mor­row, the top clash should be the Tarx­ien-Hiber­ni­ans derby which is al­ways a del­i­cate match for both sides. The Pao­lites will have the slight ad­van­tage of know­ing the re­sults of to­day’s matches in­volv­ing Balzan and Birkirkara, but on cur­rent form, they should be con­sid­ered favourites to win all the three points. How­ever, the Rain­bows have been show­ing im­prove­ment in their re­cent matches and it was only through sheer bad luck that they have not won more points, es­pe­cially in re­cent matches. In the match that fol­lows, Val­letta face Ham­run Spar­tans in what should be an­other keen con­test be­tween two ri­val teams. The ci­ti­zens start as favourites but af­ter their lack­lus­tre per­for­mance in a goal­less draw against St An­drews last week, one can­not say with cer­tainty that they will be beat­ing the Spar­tans. The lat­ter, in fact, are oc­cu­py­ing a healthy mid-ta­ble po­si­tion with 14 points to their credit and I am sure they will try to do their best

To­day

6.00pm Sliema W. vs Balzan 8.00pm Flo­ri­ana vs Birkirkara

To­mor­row

Na­tional Sta­dium 2.00pm Tarx­ien R. vs Hiber­ni­ans 4.00pm Ħam­run S. vs Val­letta

Sun­day

Vic­tor Tedesco Sta­dium 2.00pm St. An­drews vs Gżira U. 4.15pm Mosta v Pem­broke A.

Stand­ings

Balzan Hiber­ni­ans Birkirkara Val­letta Flo­ri­ana Sliema Ham­run Tarx­ien St. An­drews Gzira Mosta Pem­broke P W D 10 7 2 10 6 2 10 6 1 10 5 3 10 5 2 10 5 1 10 4 2 10 2 4 10 3 1 10 2 3 10 2 2 10 1 1 L F APts 1 21 12 23 2 12 8 20 3 25 8 19 2 15 10 18 3 11 8 17 4 13 11 16 4 18 17 14 4 10 15 10 6 10 16 10 5 11 19 9 6 10 18 8 8 10 24 4

to im­prove upon that plac­ing if they have the chance. The other two matches on the pro­gramme this week­end in­volve four clubs fight­ing to avoid rel­e­ga­tion. St An­drews will be facing Gzira United and the for­mer will be look­ing for an­other pos­i­tive re­sult af­ter their gritty per­for­mance against the cham­pi­ons which earned them a pre­cious point. That en­abled them to move onto the 10-point mark, one ahead of to­mor­row’s op­po­nents, who have re­mained stuck on the 9point mark af­ter three con­sec­u­tive de­feats. Mosta and Pem­broke will also be fight­ing to claim all the three points when they face each other in the sec­ond match at the Vic­tor Tedesco Sta­dium to­mor­row. Mosta did well to hold Sliema to a 1-1 draw last Sun­day, but Pem­broke are facing a long up­hill task and un­less they start win­ning points, they will find the go­ing even harder in the next rounds.

Tris­ton Caru­ana (left) and Jackson Lima (right) will fight again for the ball in to­mor­row’s derby be­tween Tarx­ien and Hiber­ni­ans Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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