Top five clubs should win their week­end matches

● Hiber­ni­ans have the tough­est task when fac­ing Sliema W. ● Gzira and Ham­run S. meet with three pre­cious points at stake ● Dif­fi­cult matches for rel­e­ga­tion haunted clubs

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

The Bank of Val­letta Premier League con­tin­ues this week­end with an­other set of matches – the 13th round – in which the top five clubs are favoured to col­lect max­i­mum points.

The ex­cep­tion might be Hiber­ni­ans who seem to have the tough­est en­counter as they face sixth placed and much im­proved Sliema Wan­der­ers this after­noon.

But oth­er­wise, lead­ers Balzan, Val­letta, Birkirkara and Flo­ri­ana should all be able to col­lect an­other three points as they play against Pem­broke, Mosta, Tarx­ien and St An­drews re­spec­tively.

An im­por­tant clash is the direct rel­e­ga­tion en­counter be­tween Ham­run Spar­tans and Gzira, even if Ham­run are dis­tanced by five points from their op­po­nents.

The top clash is un­doubt­edly the Hiber­ni­ans-Sliema match which is a MUST WIN en­counter for both sides.

The Poalites are ly­ing sec­ond, just one point be­hind the lead­ers, while Sliema are in sixth place, two points be­hind Balzan.

The sce­nario for this week­end sees Balzan hot favourites to bag all the three points from their match against bot­tom placed Pem­broke and there­fore it has be­come im­per­a­tive for the Pao­lites to win all the three points against Sliema to keep the pace with the lead­ers at the top.

On the other hand, Sliema can­not af­ford to lose a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive match af­ter hav­ing lost to Val­letta last week.

Sliema are des­per­ately try­ing to avoid a rep­e­ti­tion of the dis­as­trous open­ing first round re­sults which saw them lag­ging be­hind the top clubs af­ter suf­fer­ing five de­feats.

As al­ready stated, Balzan should find lit­tle prob­lems in dis­pos­ing of bot­tom club Pem­broke, even if they were made to strug­gle more than ex­pected to beat a stub­born Mosta side 1-0 last week.

Pem­broke also fig­ured badly last week when they suf­fered a ninth de­feat (2-1 against Flo­ri­ana).

Mosta are strug­gling to sur­vive this sea­son and have only col­lected eight points af­ter hav­ing played 12 matches. Un­less they start win­ning the points that mat­ter, they could find them­selves in trou­ble when the sea­son draws to a close.

This week, how­ever, it will again be an up­hill strug­gle as they face none other than cham­pi­ons Val­letta who seem to be mak­ing progress with ev­ery match they play af­ter some dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances.

The ci­ti­zens, to­gether with the Pao­lites, are the main chal­lengers to Balzan for the ti­tle. But they will also have to be on full alert as Mosta gave them a very good run for their money in the first round en­counter.

The enig­matic Birkirkara side now take on Tarx­ien Rain­bows who man­aged to win three pre­cious points against fel­lows in dis­tress Gzira last week.

The Rain­bows, on their day, al­ways give Birkirkara a tough time and they cer­tainly have to be at their very best to try and ob­tain a pos­i­tive re­sult.

The Stripes have been some­what unim­pres­sive re­cently. Suf­fice to say that they only sal­vaged a point from a 1-1 draw last week against lowly St An­drews thanks to an added time equaliser.

The Stripes need to show bet­ter at­tack­ing form if they are to main­tain their hopes of chal­leng­ing for the ti­tle.

Flo­ri­ana have re­mained un­de­feated since 1 Oc­to­ber when they went down 1-3 to their arch ri­vals Sliema W. Since then, the Greens have col­lected a good 11 points from a pos­si­ble 15 and they now hope to ex­tend their pos­i­tive run to six matches.

But it will cer­tainly not be easy to lower the colours of St An­drews. The lat­ter have shown tremen­dous im­prove­ment un­der coach Danilo Don­cic. Apart from the wins against Pem­broke and Gzira, they ob­tained pres­ti­gious draws against Val­letta and Birkirkara as well as suf­fer­ing a nar­row de­feat to sec­ond placed Hiber­ni­ans.

The other match on the pro­gramme is the rel­e­ga­tion-billed match be­tween Ham­run and Gzira.

At the mo­ment, and in the knowl­edge that only one team is to be rel­e­gated this sea­son, both sides do not seem to be both­ered too much by their plac­ing as they are above bot­tom placed Pem­broke. But it is ev­i­dent that they are still far away from safety even if there are still a lot of matches to be played.

Standings

Balzan Hiber­ni­ans Val­letta Birkirkara Flo­ri­ana Sliema Ham­run St. An­drews Tarx­ien Gzira Mosta Pem­broke 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 8 8 7 6 6 5 4 4 3 2 2 2 3 2 3 3 3 2 2 2 4 3 2 1 1 23 13 27 2 18 10 26 2 20 11 24 3 27 10 21 3 14 10 21 5 15 14 17 6 19 24 14 6 12 17 14 5 12 17 13 7 11 21 9 8 10 22 8 8 14 26 7

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