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All to play for in race for final Championship Pool berth

Valletta's Caio Prado (left) races past Will Donkin, of Mosta. Photo: Jonathan Bugeja

The BOV Premier League is set for an exciting final day of the opening phase of the 2021-22 season with four teams vying for the final berth in the Championship Pool.

Last weekend, Gżira United and Ħamrun Spartans booked their place in the Championship Pool after getting back to winning ways to join Floriana, Hibernians and Birkirkara in the top section of the Maltese top flight.

With Sliema Wanderers, Santa Lucia and Balzan already resigned to playing in the Relegation Pool this season, the fate of four other teams is still up in the air as Sirens, who currently hold the sixth and final berth in the Championship Pool, will be looking to fend off the challenge of Gudja United, Mosta and Valletta.

There is little to separate these sides heading into the final match of the first phase as the St Paul’s Bay side are on 27 points, one clear of Gudja United with Valletta and Mosta a further point behind.

The final spot could also be decided beyond this weekend as should Sirens draw their match against Gżira United and Valletta and Mosta win, there could be a scenario that all three teams finish with 28 points.

Here, the three teams’ direct encounters will take into consideration and it will be Sirens and Valletta who will face each other in a decider as Mosta have an inferior head-to-head record between the three teams.

Sirens coach Winston Muscat expects his players to give all they have to fulfil their first objective of the season.

“One thing is certain at the moment, that our destiny is firmly in our hands,” Muscat said.

“We are starting with a one-point advantage over our direct rivals and winning all three points will be fundamental for us as not only we secure our place in the Championship Pool but puts us in a stronger position to challenge for something bigger, come the third and final round.

“I am expecting a very tough match against Gżira United but it’s up to us to seal our future.”

Thane Micallef, the Gudja United coach, said that reaching the Championship Pool would be a huge achievement for the club but said that winning all three points had a bigger weight.

“Honestly, it doesn’t depend completely on us as it rests on what our rivals do,” Micallef said.

“But irrespective of whether we make it to the Championship Pool or not, winning the three points is crucial. Should we end up in Relegation Pool it would put us in a much better position.”

For Mario Muscat, the Mosta coach, the main focus is also to win the match and given the improved form of his team, he is confident they can prevail on Saturday.

“Whatever happens in the other matches, we need to win the match,” Muscat said.

“Our hope is to make it to the Championship Pool but if we fail, adding the three points will see us start the Relegation Pool with a bigger gap on the teams battling for the drop.

“The team’s form has been very encouraging since we brought in reinforcements in January and I’m confident we can deliver the right result this weekend and then see what happens.”

Valletta, on the other hand, have the toughest task from the four as they face Birkirkara, but coach Danilo Doncic insists that since there is still a lifeline the team must battle until the end.

“While mathematically there is still a chance to make the top six, we have to fight for it,” he said.

“But to win against Birkirkara, we need to eradicate the silly mistakes we have been committing in the last few weeks that saw us concede goals.

“For us, the match against Birkirkara is like a final and should we take the three points and reach the Championship Pool, it would be a big achievement given our recent troubles.”


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