Gżira United and Hibernians will be in search of three crucial points in their bid to secure
European football when they go head-to-head at the National Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 2pm).
With the league championship seemingly firm in the hands of runaway leaders Ħamrun Spartans, the race for the other two spots for European football this summer is entering a decisive phase with eight teams all grouped in the space of ten points.
Gżira United are currently on pole to take the runners-up spot in this year’s championship but need to look on their shoulders as they have a slim one-point advantage over Birkirkara with Hibernians a further point back.
The Maroons are showing a huge level of consistency this season not only in terms of performances but more importantly in the results attained and a win this afternoon against Hibernians could see them take a giant stride towards securing a fifth appearance in UEFA club competitions in the last five seasons.
“This is a massive match for us in terms of our ambitions of securing a place in Europe,” coach Darren Abdilla told the Times of Malta.
“Hibernians are one of our closest rivals and a win against them would see us open an important five-point cushion lead over the fourth-placed side with nine matches left.
“Added to that, one has to be realistic and admit that the league championship is out of our reach at the moment, but at the same time we have an important objective to reach as we could finish as league runners-up for the first time in the club’s history.
“Obviously, I would have preferred that we could have given Ħamrun Spartans a stronger challenge for the title but 11 points with 10 matches to go are very difficult so we need to focus on what we can achieve and we have to do the best that we can.
“We are facing a very strong side in Hibernians. In my opinion, along with Ħamrun Spartans, they boast the best nucleus of Maltese players so we need to be ready. We will have to be at our best if we are to maintain our positive march.”
On his part, Hibernians coach Andrea Pisanu has admitted that the Paolites are in for a great challenge against a Gżira United side who are enjoying one of their best Premier League campaigns in recent years.
“It’s a very important match between two teams who are enjoying a good league campaign so far and that they are divided by only two points,” Pisanu told the Times of Malta.
“We are aware of the difficult challenge awaiting us as Gżira United are a very strong team with some talented players, particularly in attack, and we need to be fully focused throughout the 90 minutes or else they can punish us.
“They have a clear playing identity which they execute very well.
“We are going to approach the match with great respect for our opponents but at the same time with the belief that we are also a very strong team with great quality.
“I am pleased to see my players giving everything they have during training as we look to continue to improve ourselves as a team with every week that passes.”
Hibernians have so far been inactive during the January transfer window and asked whether he plans to bring in reinforcements, Pisanu said: “We are looking at all options available and if the opportunity comes knocking to bring in reinforcements we will look at it.
“If we are bringing someone it has to be a player that can give us something different from what we have at the moment. If we don’t find someone with a different characteristic than we have then we will remain how we are.
“At the end of the day, I am happy with the squad that we have.”
PLAYING ON SATURDAY
Gżira Utd vs Hibernians 14.00
Żebbuġ R. vs vs Gudja Utd 16.15
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Birkirkara vs Sta Lucia 14.00
Mosta vs Pieta H. 16.15
PLAYING ON SUNDAY
Balzan vs Marsaxlokk 11.30
Valletta vs Floriana 15.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Ħamrun S. vs Sirens 15.00
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