Valletta favourites to retain the title
● Hibs must beat Senglea at all costs on Monday ● Balzan-Sliema is a big clash in battle for 4th place
The Bank of Valletta Premier League is nearing completion and only the final two matchdays remain to be played.
After the 24th matchday of the past weekend, it is now quite obvious that Valletta are firm favourites to retain the title of champions, especially with Hibernians missing the bus completely after being surprisingly beaten 3-1 by Qormi.
If the citizens beat Tarxien (as is widely expected) and Hibernians do not go beyond a draw against Senglea on Monday, then Valletta will be crowned champions for a second consecutive time.
And not all is over in two other issues. The battle for 4th place and the relegation issues still have to be decided and the position should become clearer by next Monday.
The citizens became the new leaders on Monday night after Hibernians faltered against lowly Qormi.
After their emphatic 4-0 win against St Andrews and now being so close to yet another title win, Valletta are not expected to miss this unexpected chance after they had only managed a draw against Gzira.
Against Tarxien, Valletta must be considered firm favourites to get the three points, but they cannot take things for granted.
Tarxien have no further interest in the proceedings as they are now mathematically safe from relegation.
As such, they can play with great tranquillity and consider these last two matches as preparation for their forthcoming clash against Balzan in the Trophy quarterfinals.
Whatever the result of today’s match, Hibernians cannot afford to miss any of the three points on Monday when they face Senglea.
But after their debacle against Qormi, the Paolites now face another tough obstacle. Not only are Senglea close neighbours (in fact this is considered as another Cottonera derby), but also the Yellow Reds are not yet safe from relegation, needing two points from their last two matches to secure their safety.
The Sliema-Balzan clash is also a very important match in connection with the battle for 4th place in which Hamrun and Birkirkara are also still in with a chance.
A victory for Sliema will push them on a par with Hamrun if the latter, as expected, beat Pieta.
But a victory for Balzan will see the latter closing in on the 4th place.
Birkirkara will now be facing Qormi on Monday. Having suffered two defeats in a row against Hibernians and Mosta, the Stripes are almost out of the race. But they will have to win their remaining two matches and hope that the other results will be in their favour.
Qormi will certainly be no pushovers. Having dismissed title challengers Hibernians last Monday, they will now be expected to go all out against the demoralised Stripes to try and win another three points which will lift them above St Andrews in 12th place, if the latter lose against Floriana on Monday.
Qormi’s final chance in these two matches is to at least finish 12th to avoid being relegated automatically. If they succeed, they will then figure in a play-off against the third placed team in the First Division.
The other match on this weekend’s programme is the clash between Mosta and Gzira where there is nothing at stake.
Issues still to be decided
As the Championship campaign nears its end, only the third place issue has been decided. This has been secured by Gzira, although the Maroons are still mathematically in with a remote chance for the title.
Only two matches remain to be played by each club and this is the programme for each club (points in brackets) till the end:
Valletta (54) – v. Tarxien R. and Hamrun S.
Hibernians (52) – v. Senglea and Balzan
Gzira U. (49) – v. Mosta and St Andrews
Sliema (42) – v. Balzan and Pieta H.
Hamrun S. (42) – v. Pieta and Valletta
Balzan (40) – v. Sliema W. and Hibernians
Birkirkara (39) – v. Qormi and Senglea
Senglea (23) – v. Hibernians and Birkirkara
St Andrews (18) – v. Floriana and Gzira U.
Qormi (16) – v. Birkirkara and Mosta
Pieta H. (13) – v. Hamrun S. and Sliema W.
Bank of Valletta Premier League 4pm Pieta H.-Hamrun S.
6pm Balzan-Sliema W.
Bank of Valletta Premier League 4pm Mosta-Gzira U.
6pm Valletta-Tarxien R.
Bank of Valletta First Division 3pm Swieqi U.-Naxxar L. 5.15pm Vittoriosa S.-Sirens 7.30pm Marsa-Santa Lucia.
Bank of Valletta Premier League 7pm Qormi-Birkirkara.
Bank of Valletta Premier League 6pm Floriana-St Andrews 8pm Senglea Ath.-Hibernians
Bank of Valletta First Division 6pm Gudja U.-San Gwann 8.15pm Lija Ath.-Zejtun C.
Bank of Valletta First Division 6pm Pembroke Ath.-Mqabba 8.15pm Zebbug R.-Qrendi