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
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.
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