Gżira eye three points to boost Euro hopes
Ħamrun Spartans and Gżira United will be in search of valuable points for different reasons as the two top sides in the Premier League division go head to head at the National Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 2pm).
Last week, Gżira United and Birkirkara’s failure to pick up maximum points from their match-ups against Valletta and Marsaxlokk respectively was fully exploited by the dominant Spartans who beat Mosta by the odd goal in three and they now need just one point from today’s match to seal a ninth league title and a second in the space of three years.
On the other hand, the Maroons’ defeat to Valletta left them with a tough fight on their hands to secure European football as they are embroiled in a battle between five teams for two spots in next summer’s UEFA Conference League qualifiers and nothing less than three points today will boost their hopes of a top-three finish.
Given such a scenario, a thrilling match is in prospect between these two giants of the Premier League this afternoon which is set to be watched by a huge crowd at the National Stadium, particularly as the Spartans fans are set to turn up in numbers in the hope of seeing their team wrap up the league title.
Branko Nisevic, the Ħamrun Spartans coach, is not getting carried away by the expectations of the club’s fans ahead of today’s match and has called on his players to approach the match with the right mindset.
“I know that this is a must-win match not only for us but also for Gżira United and my players are bracing themselves for a difficult afternoon,” the Serbian coach told the Times of Malta.
“Gżira United will be desperate to win the match to strengthen their grip on second place in the standings so I am sure they will come out firing with all cylinders.
“On the other hand we know that we have five matchdays to win the title and we want to settle it by winning it in the first match.”
Nisevic said that he was pleased with the response provided by his players in their win over Mosta after their disappointing elimination from the FA Trophy at the hands of Birkirkara.
“I was delighted as the players showed a lot of grit and determination and we started very well in the first half and that was great to see,” Nisevic said.
“There are always some ups and downs throughout the season but the players have shown that they are always capable to fight back.
“I hope that we can maintain that momentum against a Gżira team who have been very solid this season and have some quality players in all areas of the pitch.
“We are now looking forward to Saturday’s match where it looks like we will be playing a huge crowd. Our fans have been behind us since last July in all situations we found ourselves in.
“Their support has been crucial for us in this journey and hopefully we can give them a reason to celebrate.”
Nisevic is boosted by the return of Steve Borg, who missed the Mosta match through suspension, and midfielder Roko Prsa who has recovered full fitness.
On his part, Darren Abdilla, the Gżira United coach, admitted that his team are desperate to get back to winning ways after they failed to win any of their last matches in all competitions.
“To be honest, I always knew that our quest to secure European football would continue till the final game of the season,” Abdilla said.
“There is a lot of talk of Ħamrun winning the title against us, but honestly we are only focused on ourselves and we need to win all three points for obvious reasons. We come into the match from a run of three matches where we failed to win and we have a point to prove.
“During these matches we created a lot of scoring chances but we simply failed to put the ball into the net. Now it’s time to roll up their sleeves and work hard to try and get all three points in the bag as it’s imperative for our hopes of securing European football.
“The players are very angry with how things have turned out in the last three matches and are desperate to make things right.
“Added to that we have some key players missing through injury and it’s time that the team shows its character in such an important juncture of the season.”
The Gżira United coach is sweating on the fitness of Croatian defender Gabriel Bohrer and forward Ewertton who are recovering from injury.
Ħamrun S. vs Gżira Utd 14.00
Mosta vs Birkirkara 18.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Hibernians vs Marsaxlokk 14.00
Floriana vs Żebbuġ R. 16.15
Sirens vs Sta Lucia 15.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Pieta H. Vs Gudja 15.00
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