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Marsaxlokk, Santa Lucia eye crucial win in relegation battle

Marsalokk’s Daniel Agius (left) races past Jurgen Pisani, of Sta Lucia. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The BOV Premier League relegation battle passes through another decisive chapter this weekend when relegation rivals Marsaxlokk and Santa Lucia go head to head at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

Looking at the Premier League standings, it looks as though Marsaxlokk, who hold a commanding eight-point lead over second-from-bottom Sta Lucia may look to be within touching distance of Premier League safety.

However, a Santa Lucia victory on Sunday will surely throw the relegation race wide open with seven matches to go as it would leave the gap between the two southern sides to just five points.

Marsaxlokk have only two draws to show from their last three Premier League encounters and coach Pablo Doffo is desperate to finally see his secure a win that would be huge in their ambitions of Premier League safety.

“Everyone at the club knows how important this match is for us,” Doffo told the Times of Malta.

“We are working really hard to produce a good performance and hopefully we can secure a positive result. If you look at the team performances in recent weeks, they were very good but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to pick up the points we deserved.

“In my view, there are some small details that we need to iron out.

“Our biggest problem, in my eyes, is that we are creating a lot of opportunities but we are not putting the ball into the net and that is costing us a lot as we are punished for the smallest mistake we commit.

“No doubt, we can’t afford any lapses against a Sta Lucia team who have improved a lot since Enzo Potenza took over as a coach.

“We know that for us we have two results in our favour and the players have to go out and give more than 100 per cent to get the result we want.”

While Marsaxlokk may have some margin of error given the cushion they have built over the relegation zone, the same cannot be said of Sta Lucia who will be aware that they need to pick up all spoils if they are to at least leapfrog Żebbuġ Rangers in the play-out spot.

Eight finals

“We need to approach every match as if it was a final,” coach Vincenzo Potenza said.

“Irrespective of the team that we are facing, we need to go out and pick up valuable points and then after these final
eight matches we will see where we are.

“There is no hiding that given our position in the standings, the team is under a bit of pressure and inevitably it happens in a negative way on the team’s performance. Every time I tell my players to take the pitch very calmly as errors happen when you are trying to build something.

“Our situation in the standings is quite complicated but we will give our 100 per cent until the final day to come out of this situation.”

Potenza had words of praise for Marsaxlokk, who he described as a very organised team.

“Marsaxlokk is an excellent team who in my opinion, with the potential they have, should be in a far higher position in the standings,” the Italian coach said.

“They play some excellent football and they are a very determined bunch of players when they don’t have the ball at their feet and have some players with great individual skill.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I have always been pleased with my team’s level of performance but
unfortunately, sometimes we struggle psychologically due to the difficult position we are in the standings.

“We need to be resilient and continue to work as a group if we are to keep our place in the Premier League.”

PROGRAMME

SATURDAY

NATIONAL STADIUM
Ħamrun S. vs Valletta 15.00

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Birkirkara vs Gudja Utd 14.00
Żebbuġ R. vs Hibernians 16.15

SUNDAY

CENTENARY STADIUM
Balzan vs Pieta H. 11.30

NATIONAL STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Sirens 14.00
Mosta vs Floriana 16.15

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Sta Lucia vs Marsaxlokk 15.00

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