Balzan and Mosta will be vying to move into the Premier League top three when they go head-to-head at the Centenary Stadium on Monday evening (kick-off: 18.00).
Birkirkara’s impressive 3-1 win over Gżira United has opened the door for either Balzan or Mosta, who are currently two points adrift in the standings, to move into the final berth of the UEFA Conference League qualifiers spot.
In fact a win for either Balzan or Mosta would see them move on the 43-point mark, one point ahead of Gżira United and Hibernians the other contenders for the remaining European spots in the Premier League.
Monday’s showdown brings against each two teams who since the turn of the year have emerged as the dark horses in the race for European places, with an eye-catching run of results that saw them upset some of the division’s top guns.
Balzan come into the match on the back of a 4-0 defeat to newly-crowned champions Ħamrun Spartans that brought to an end an impressive unbeaten run that stretched almost three months.
However, that failed to hinder Balzan’s determination and coach Oliver Spiteri said that this team are determined to get back on track on Monday evening.
“There is no shame in losing to Ħamrun Spartans who have proved this season that they are the best team in the division,” Spiteri told the Times of Malta.
“We tried to play our game against a team who is playing football of the highest calibre. We kept our style of play and we had our moments during the game where we managed to create a lot of danger for the Ħamrun goalkeeper.
“Now our focus is on Mosta and I am expecting a completely different game where our goal will be that to take all the three points. Mosta are a very valid team who are led very well by Joe Grech so it’s not going to be easy.
“But I am confident that my players will rise to the occasion and bring home the result we are looking for.”
Balzan’s chase for a place in European football was something few would have anticipated at the start of the season, particularly after the club battled against relegation for the past two years.
Spiteri said that the results achieved by the team this season showed how much the club has improved in the past months.
“If you look from where we started this season, a team who battled relegation in the past two years, to become one of the contenders for European football is a remarkable improvement.
“This season, we have managed to battle against the top teams in the division and we are in a tough fight for a top-three finish. For us we are still living this dream of returning to European football and we will do everything it takes to make sure to reach this objective.”
On their part, Mosta head into the match against Balzan in high spirits as the Blues warmed up for this match with an impressive 2-1 win over Gżira United last weekend.
“It was a crucial victory for our quest to European football,” Grech said about their win over the Maroons last week.
“However, there is still a long way to go and our win against Gżira will prove futile if we fail to beat Balzan. We approach every match as if it was a final and that mentality worked very well for us as the players go for every match fighting for every point.
“It is important that we show the same character and fighting qualities we showed against Gżira United last week. During that match we had to absorb the pressure of our opponents but were clinical enough to take the chances that came our way.”
Grech is bracing himself for another tough test against Balzan on Monday.
“We may have won our first-round clash against Balzan but I remember very clearly how much we had to suffer for the three points,” Grech said.
“Balzan put a lot of pressure on us in the second half and we just managed to hang on to our lead. They have a very strong forward line, with forwards who are very fast and with great technique.
“Their acquisitions in January continued to strengthen what was already a very competitive squad so we can’t lower our level of concentration.
“It’s going to be another great duel but we will be ready for it.”
PLAYING ON MONDAY
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Valletta vs Sta Lucia 18.30
Mosta vs Balzan 18.00
Ħamrun S. vs Żebbuġ R. 19.00
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