Tricky tests for Birkirkara and Hamrun Spartans
Gudja United v Valletta – 25.09.2021 (17.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium
Valletta face their ‘bogey team’ Gudja United. This is the fifth encounter between the two sides in the top division where in the previous four, the Citizens only registered four points out of a possible 12. The Lilywhites go into this game on the back of two disappointing defeats in which they also failed to score and had a player sent off in both matches. They will be looking to return to winning ways should they wish to get their title challenge back on track. At the moment they trail leaders Hibernians by six points after two defeats against Floriana (3-0) and Gzira United (2-0).
Portuguese mentor Antonio Cardoso Mendes is expected to make changes to his starting eleven as he welcomes Christian Gauci from suspension but Emny Pena Beltre starts a three matchday suspension.
Gudja’s displays have shown that they are a tough team to beat and are a real threat when going forward especially on counter attacks. Their latest victims were Sliema Wanderers (3-2), sending a warning to ramp up the pressure on their opposition. A win for Gudja gives them a psychological boost to increase their position in the relegation battle.
Floriana v Hamrun Spartans – 25.09.2021 (19.00 hrs) – National Stadium
This is a mouth-watering clash between two old rivals, the 193rd official meeting in history between the two teams. This encounter is a must-win for the reigning champions Hamrun Spartans after they succumbed to three defeats in four matches, which left them languishing in the drop zone. Coach Mark Buttigieg needs to find a winning formula. They have struggled and failed to find a combination in midfield as they are missing the presence of the injured Matthew Guillaumier who brings versatility and calmness among his colleagues, apart from his silky distribution. On top of that, another Malta international, Juan Corbalan, has also been ruled out due to injury.
The Spartans are facing a team who is growing in confidence and can cause any defence big problems. The new coach, Gianluca Atzori, has transformed a ‘vulnerable’ team who flirted with relegation last season to a dominant force. His tactics rely on the physical presence and intelligent runs of the wingbacks, Adam Magri Overend and Ryan Camenzuli, who pose a threat especially with their trickery and agility, and with Jan Busuttil and Jose Arias breaking from the middle of the park.
Hibernians v Santa Lucia – 25.09.2021 (21.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium
Sole leaders Hibernians stretched their maximum points record to four games as they deservedly beat Mosta 3-2 and continued to strengthen their credentials to their title ambitions. The Paolites have become a force that is crystal clear evidence of reaching their peak early in the season.
Marshalled by veteran defender Andrei Agius, Hibernians are well equipped in every department and they can boast that they have the strongest midfield in the top division which makes them one of the favourites for the title race. Up front, Jake Grech gives them more impetus to score goals. In fact, they have scored the most goals with a tally of 11.
Santa Lucia have found themselves in a dangerous position after their 3-1 defeat against Sirens and now sit above the drop zone. Still looking for their first win of the season, they now face a stern test against their nieghbours who start as firm favourites.
Gzira United v Birkirkara – 26.09.2021 (17.00 hrs) – National Stadium
The Maroons face Birkirkara as the team of Darren Abdilla look to build on their 2-0 victory last weekend over Valletta which lifted them to seventh place. Obviously their morale must be sky high going into this clash but they must navigate a tricky test against one of the main contenders who also possess the best back line as they only conceded three goals in the MPL so far. Gzira might unleash newcomer Yuri de Jesus Messias in the starting line-up after settling well in the clan’s environment forming a lethal tandem with Jefferson de Assis.
But they should nullify Luke Montebello and Federico Falcone who get at any defence with great regularity as the Argentinian forward is the only player to score in every match so far. After being held by Floriana (1-1), the Stripes seek to bounce back to winning ways. There is no room for complacency and must keep up the pace with leaders Hibernians after losing two points in the previous outing. Malta defender Enrico Pepe is still in doubt after missing two games through injury.
Sirens v Sliema Wanderers – 26.09.2021 (19.00 hrs) – Tony Bezzina Stadium
Sirens take on Sliema as they have a chance to pile more misery on the Wanderers. They climbed to third place after they outplayed and defeated Sta Lucia 3-1. Goals from Vitao and Alfred Effiong, who also registered his 150th goal in the top flight, set their team on course for a vital win. Although Fausto Prates reduced the deficit for the Lucians, Jamaican forward Kemar Reid sealed a well-deserved victory for Sirens.
They face a team who is enduring a crisis of confidence, struggling in all of their matches so far and still looking for their first victory. In their last outing, against Gudja United, they threw away a 2-1 half-time lead and collapsed in the second period to lose 3-2. On top of that, Sliema have never beaten Sirens so far, as the four previous meetings during the last two Premier Division editions resulted in two Sirens wins and two draws.
Mosta v Balzan – 26.09.2021 (21.00 hrs) – National Stadium
Mosta, who sit rock bottom of the Premier League with only one point, face Balzan who reignited their top four hopes after defeating defending champions Hamrun Spartans (1-0) in style. They played a high level game to floor their opponents and showed signs of recapturing their best form.
On the other hand, Mosta are winless and suffered their third defeat against Hibernians (3-2). After the Paolites opened a three-goal lead, Mosta scored twice in the closing stages but were not enough. The Blue army need to start to collect points and win games to be able to give themselves a chance to finish top six at the end of the 2nd round of matches.