Hibernians and Floriana have their eyes firmly set on preserving their perfect start in the 2023-24 Premier League when they go head to head in the plum fixture this evening at the National Stadium (kick-off: 7pm).
The Paolites seem to have pushed the reset button at the start of this season after a disappointing 2022-23 campaign as under the charge of coach Branko Nisevic, the team look to be a revitalised lot and have managed to secure back-to-back victories over Gżira United (4-0) and Santa Lucia (3-2).
On the other hand, Floriana have been the stand-out performers so far this season as the Greens, who this season are led by former Juventus winger Mauro Camoranesi, have kickstarted their campaign with an emphatic 4-0 win over Sta Lucia before further impressing with an eye-catching 2-0 win over title challengers Birkirkara.
For Hibernians, today’s match against Floriana, represents their first real test of their ambitions this season and the Serbian coach said that he hopes his players are capable of maintaining the high standards set so far.
“I am very pleased with how we started the season,” Nisevic told the Times of Malta.
“We played two matches and got two wins. We are aware that we are set for a very difficult test against a Floriana team who are showing a good level of football, playing a very intensive game and they boast some very interesting players.
“Our main objective is quite clear… to try and keep up the high standards we have set so far. The team has been scoring a lot of goals but there are still a number of issues that we need to sort out.
“Unfortunately, we have some small issues with a number of players who are not fully fit and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can recover some players for this match.”
Nisevic said that Hibernians are still far away from fulfilling their maximum potential and they still need time to gel well as a team.
“There are some a lot of areas where we need to improve if we are going to be competitive this season,” the former Ħamrun Spartans coach said.
“Our defensive set-up, particularly in set-piece situations is one area we need to do better. We have a number of players who arrived at the club just 10 days before our first league match so they need more time to settle down and get better acquainted with how we want to play.
“No doubt, there is a far bigger potential in the team that we need to bring out as this season the championship is very competitive at both ends of the table. With four teams being relegated all clubs will be fighting hard so it’s tougher to win matches.”
Nisevic is sure to be without Dutch winger Dennis Antwi who must serve a one-match ban.
On the other hand, Floriana seem to have enjoyed a seamless start under the charge of Camoranesi as the Greens have so far looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly during last Saturday’s impressive 2-0 win over highly-quoted Birkirkara.
Camoranesi has sounded pleased with what he saw from his team so far and is keen to see his players continue to build on their performances.
“We are happy with the results and performances so far,” the 2006 World Cup winner said.
“Our win over Birkirkara was a great sign for us as we managed to beat a team who, in my view, is one of the three main challengers for the title this season.
“Consistent performances is very imporant so early in the season, particularly in this championship where there are four or five teams that are capable of winning against anyone.
“I hope that my players will approach the match against Hibernians with the same intensity as we are playing against a very strong opponent.”
Asked to give his views on Hibernians, Camoranesi said: “I was very impressed by their forward line, which is blessed by some great talent so we need to be focused right from the start.
“They like to start their play from the back and enjoy being in control of the match and have no hurry moving the ball out of their half as they are comfortable on the ball.
“We have already faced them in pre-season, but on that day they were not so strong so for us it’s going to be a different challenge.
“But the most important thing is that my players continue to show all the positives we have shown so far as it’s going to be a great challenge and I am really looking forward to the match.”
PLAYING ON TUESDAY
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Sta Lucia vs Balzan 18.00
Gżira Utd vs Naxxar L. 20.00
Floriana vs Hibernians 19.00
PLAYING ON WEDNESDAY
Ħamrun S. vs Gudja Utd 18.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Marsaxlokk vs Sirens 18.00
Mosta vs Sliema W. 20.00
Birkirkara vs Valletta 19.00
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