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Relegation battle, race for European spot take centre stage in Premier League

Teams engaged in the race towards European football and the relegation battle face some crucial match-ups as the BOV Premier League returns this weekend after making way for the FA Trophy quarter-finals last week.

The relegation battle takes centre stage on Saturday when Santa Lucia and Pietà Hotspurs, the two teams occupying the last two places in the standings, go head-to-head at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

Then third-from-bottom Żebbuġ Rangers will have the chance to further distance themselves from the automatic-relegation spots when they face Sirens at the Centenary Stadium.

For Santa Lucia their clash against the Hotspurs represents their last chance of keeping alive their dream of clawing themselves back into contention to claim the 12th spot in the standings that would earn them a play-off with the third-placed team in the Challenge League.

The Saints have been putting up some encouraging showings lately but some lapses of concentration in key moment has cost them some valuable points.

Today, Enzo Potenza’s men have no margin for error when they face a Hotspurs team who look destined for a quick return to Challenge League football.

The Hotspurs will be without defender Ganiu Ogungbe who must serve a one-match ban.

On their part, Żebbuġ Rangers have a huge opportunity to further strengthen their grip on 12th place in the standings when they face a Sirens team who have been struggling for results lately.

The Rangers have shown remarkable improvement in the last few weeks as they won two and drew one from the last four matches to pick up valuable points that has seen them open a vital six-point lead over Santa Lucia.

On Saturday evening coach Brian Spiteri will fancy his team’s chances of grabbing what would be another crucial victory against a Sirens team who have only one point to show from their last five matches.

On Sunday , the race for a place in European football will take centre stage as champions Hibernians will kick off the day’s proceedings when they face Gudja United in the early kick-off at the Centenary Stadium.

The Paolites come into the match on the back of a disappointing week which has seen their hopes of winning the FA Trophy come to a end following a shock 1-0 defeat to Marsaxlokk in the quarter-finals last week.

That result has left the Premier League as Hibernians’ only route for European football and coach Silvio Vella will expect a strong response from his players as they look to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish this season.

At present, Hibernians are sharing fourth spot with Mosta and Balzan on 36 points, three adrift of Birkirkara.

Mosta are the team who on paper have the most daunting fixture this weekend when they face runaway leaders Ħamrun Spartans.

Joseph Grech’s team are in rich vein of form as they picked up seven of the nine points available from the last three fixtures and have also breezed into the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy after brushing aside San Ġwann 5-0.

The Blues will be aware of the difficulty of the fixture, particularly as they are up against a Ħamrun Spartans side who are keen to bounce back from the disappointment of bowing out of the FA Trophy following a 1-0 defeat to Birkirkara.

Birkirkara will fancy their chances of preserving their third spot in the standings when they take on Marsa-


The Stripes, buoyed by their win over Ħamrun Spartans in the FA Trophy, should have too much firepower for the southseasiders as they welcome back in the fray key defender Alessandro Coppolla.

Balzan face another key fixture in their quest for European football when they face Floriana in the final match of the weekend.

The Reds have been showing great improvement in the last few weeks and Oliver Spiteri’s men will set their sights on picking up another three crucial points against a Floriana team who have little to play for in their remaining fixtures this season.

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