Mosta and Naxxar Lions will renew their rivalry for the first time after an absence of four seasons when the two northern rivals go head to head in the BOV Premier League at the National Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 5pm).
It has been almost five years since the two neighbouring rivals faced each other in the Maltese top flight, and although this derby may not catch the headlines as other similar match-ups, the rivalry between both sets of fans is still fierce.
Added to that, today’s clash is of huge importance for both teams because of their season objectives. On the one hand, Naxxar, who are sitting comfortably in sixth place, are eyeing a win to further consolidate their position. Mosta, on their part, are desperate for the three points to try and move away from the relegation zone.
Mario Muscat, the Mosta technical director, admitted that the Blues are in dire need of points after coming into this fixture on the back of five matches without a win which have left the team in the relegation zone on 11 points.
“We desperately need the three points after five matches without a win,” Muscat told the Times of Malta.
“A positive factor is that some of the performances in the last weeks have been very encouraging even though they were not rewarded with the three points. No doubt, the last win’s victory over a solid Pieta Hotspurs side in the FA Trophy was a huge morale-booster as we managed to score a few goals and hopefully it could be a turning point for our season.
“This derby is a match that is desired by a lot by both sets of fans and we are aware of the difficult challenge awaiting us as Naxxar are enjoying a great season and boast one of the best group of foreign players in their ranks.
“They are coming into the match after some bright showings and even last week against Floriana, they held their own against one of the top teams in the division so no doubt we need to be our best.
“But there is no doubt that winning the match is imperative for us in what is turning out to be a tough season with four teams set for relegation. Taking all three points will help us to climb up the standings.”
‘The same as any other match’
On their part, Naxxar Lions come into the match focused on building upon their positive performances of late which saw the team securing another eye-catching victory over Valletta that lifted them eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Coach George Vella said that for him and his players, the clash against Mosta holds the same importance as all other matches.
“Derbies are always looked for by a lot of fans but for me personally, the players, and the technical staff, we are preparing it in the same way as any other match – at the end of the day there are three points at stake,” Vella said.
“Our performances in the league have been very consistent and in our last outing, we managed to secure a very important win over Valletta which consolidated our consistent run.
“I was also heartened by our display against Floriana in the FA Trophy as we managed to stay in the match for the entire 90 minutes with our opponents only killing off the tie in stoppage time.
“What is important for us is to see where we can improve and continue to grow as a team. Obviously, a win against Mosta would be a huge boost for us and a perfect gift for our loyal fans.
“But it’s not going to be easy as Mosta are fighting against relegation and will be determined to get the points. But we will do our best to get the best possible result like we did in every other match.”
For Saturday’s match, Naxxar Lions will be boosted by the availability of Japanese midfielder Yasukaze Ito, who joined the club from Pieta Hotspurs.
The 25-year-old has joined the Lions until the end of the season and will provide more options for Vella for the remainder of the campaign.
On the other hand, Brazilian midfielder William Marcilio is out as he must serve the second of a three-match ban.
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