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Spartans face tricky Sliema test, relegation battle heats up

Ħamrun Spartans face off against Sliema Wanderers this weekend. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Ħamrun Spartans’ top status in the BOV Premier League faces a major test when they take on an in-form Sliema Wanderers side in the top fixture of the weekend on Sunday at the National Stadium (kick-off: 4.15pm).

The Spartans have been in majestic form since the turn of the year as Luciano Zauri’s side have brushed aside all the teams they played against, managing eight wins in a row to open a commanding five-point lead at the top over nearest rivals Floriana.

During this run, the team have certainly rediscovered their scoring touch, scoring no less than 25 goals, and conceding just five with their front duo of Luke Montebello and Uros Duranovic topping the scoring charts with 16 and 10 goals respectively.

However, the Malta champions will be facing a real test on Sunday against one of the teams whom they have yet to beat this season – Sliema Wanderers.

The Blues, back in the top flight after just one season in the Challenge League, have been the surprise package of this campaign as Paul Zammit’s men look well on course to secure a return to European football. They are currently third in the standings on 34 points, eight clear over direct rivals Marsaxlokk.

Last week, the Wanderers produced arguably their best performance of the season when they overcame Marsaxlokk by the odd goal in three, in a match which saw them create several scoring chances and only their profligacy in front of goal denied them a more pronounced victory.

Such a statement win came at a perfect time for the Blues who will be looking to repeat their solid showing produced against the Spartans in the corresponding first-round fixture which saw them return home with a point in the bag, following a 1-1 draw.

Floriana will be interested spectators of this match as the Greens look to bounce back from last week’s disappointing 2-2 draw against Balzan with victory over Naxxar Lions at the Centenary Stadium.

Surely, the Greens will not have it all their way against the Lions who find themselves facing again a relegation battle as they are three points clear of the drop zone.

Elsewhere, the relegation battle reaches a major climax this weekend with several direct clashes.

Santa Lucia will be eyeing a third successive victory over a relegation rival when they face bottom side Gudja United, who looked resigned to a return to the Challenge League next season.

Alessandro Zinnari’s boys will be aware that a win tomorrow could see them move out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

Gżira United is another team eyeing a third win in a row when they face second-from-bottom Sirens. Andrew Cohen’s men have managed to climb out of the bottom four and another win will further distance them from the red zone.

Valletta, Mosta and Balzan have far tougher assignments when facing teams fighting for European football.

The Citizens, who are currently fourth from bottom on 18 points, need a win at all costs against Marsaxlokk to not only try not to slip further behind their rivals but also inject some belief in a dejected environment at the club.

Mosta and Balzan, currently sitting just outside the drop zone, will be keen to upset Birkirkara and Hibernians respectively, in a bid to try and climb away from the red zone.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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