Second round of Premier League starts at weekend
● Valletta face toughest test of the top four ● Balzan, Hibernians and Birkirkara favourites to win their matches ● Tarxien and Gzira meet in relegation clash
The second round of the Bank of Valletta Premier League starts this weekend with four matches today and another two tomorrow.
Of the top four clubs, Valletta seem to have the toughest obstacle as they have what looks like a tricky encounter against sixth placed Sliema who lie four points behind their rivals.
The others – leaders Balzan, third placed Hibs and fourth placed Birkirkara - are favourites to win their clashes against Mosta, Hamrun and St Andrews respectively.
The Sliema-Valletta match is certainly the top clash this weekend and it puts some extra pressure on the citizens after their recent announcement of a new sponsorship.
Valletta showed some progress in their last match when they did well to beat Hamrun Spartans 3-0 after having figured in a disappointing goalless draw with St Andrews.
Valletta, however, will have to be consistent in the hope of remaining among the title contenders. They also hope that striker Falcone will soon return to his best form after a disappointing start to the season following an injury.
Sliema are expected to be strong opponents for Valletta. In fact, they have been the most consistent side in the last seven matches.
In this period, the Wanderers won five matches and figured in two draws which pushed them from 10th in the standings to the present sixth on 17 points, seven behind leaders Balzan.
The latter should be considered firm favourites to beat relegation-haunted Mosta.
Balzan have also shown some inconsistency in their last four matches although they still maintained their leading position in the standings. After losing 3-0 to Birkirkara they returned with a bang to beat Hamrun 3-1, but then figured in two draws against Tarxien Rainbows and Sliema W.
For Mosta, it has been an uphill struggle from the start of the season.
On certain occasions, they were unlucky to have left the venues empty handed, but on most occasions, they were unconvincing and unless they steady their defence, they cannot really hope to keep two strikers like Kaljevic and Effiong at bay this afternoon.
Hibernians will be in action tomorrow as they face midtable placed Hamrun Spartans.
The Paolites have been somewhat impressive in a run of six unbeaten matches from which they collected 14 points from a possible 18.
Their last defeat was at the hands of leaders Balzan on 22 September.
The Spartans had shocked the Paolites in their opening clash as Hamrun ran out 3-1 winners in that match.
Tomorrow, they will be hoping to repeat the dose to earn three precious points which will see them moving to a healthier place in the standings.
Also today, Birkirkara should be considered firm favourites to beat mid-table St Andrews to remain close to the leaders.
The Stripes, after having won easily against Balzan and Gzira showing impressive form, were unlucky to lose against Hibernians through a hotly contested (and invented) penalty and then went on to get only a point from the match against Floriana.
The Saints are the revelation side this season. Having just survived through a playoff last season, they are now a much improved side.
So much, that they beat neighbours Pembroke comfortably in the derby, lost narrowly to Hibs and then held Valletta to a goalless draw before beating Gzira in their last encounter.
Another interesting clash today is that between Tarxien and Gzira which can be labelled as a relegation encounter.
The two sides have passed through some ‘turbulence’ during the last few days with first coach Branko Nisevic of Gzira and then Jacques Scerri of Tarxien leaving their respective clubs.
The two sides will certainly be going all out to collect three important points today, especially the Maroons who have been through a long negative patch.
Also tomorrow, Floriana should be able to beat bottom placed Pembroke to remain in a favourable position not very far away from the leaders.
The Greens showed impressive form as they held the strong Birkirkara to a 1-1 draw in their last encounter.
If they maintain such form, they will certainly have too many guns for the unlucky Pembroke side.
The latter have lost veteran goalie Mario Muscat and defender Clifford Gauci, but are hoping to be luckier in the second round, during which they will be doing a bold effort to remain as close as possible to the teams above them. Balzan Hibernians Valletta Birkirkara Floriana Sliema Hamrun St. Andrews Tarxien Gzira Mosta Pembroke 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 2 2 2 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 2 1 4 3 2 1
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