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Floriana’s Premier League title charge faces Marsaxlokk hurdle

Floriana’s Jake Grech (right) in a duel with Thomas Tegwi. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Floriana’s title ambitions face a serious test when the Greens take on fourth-placed Marsaxlokk in this weekend’s plum fixture as the race to be crowned Malta champions faces another significant chapter on Saturday.

The table-toppers have been the most in-form team in recent weeks as Mauro Camoranesi’s men have won all of their last seven league matches in all competitions and enjoy a two-point buffer over reigning champions Ħamrun Spartans with just three matches to go.

The pressure is on Floriana who will be desperate to maintain that slim advantage ahead of next week’s crucial direct clash against the Spartans.

The Greens enjoy a psychological edge over their opponents as a few weeks ago, the two teams met in the FA Trophy quarter-finals. On that occasion, Floriana breezed into the semi-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory.

However, Saturday’s match could turn out to be a far tougher test for the Greens particularly as Marsaxlokk are keen on taking all three points in their bid to wrap up fourth place in the Premier League standings.

At present, Winston Muscat’s team enjoy a three-point lead over Hibernians and four clear of sixth-placed Birkirkara.

Consistency has been a main issue for the Southerners in recent weeks. After their elimination from the FA Trophy, they were held by Gżira United before finally returning to winning ways by overcoming Santa Lucia 3-0.

Ħamrun, on their part, will be looking to pile up the pressure on Floriana when they face lowly Santa Lucia in Saturday’s opening match at the National Stadium.

A win over Santa Lucia would see the Malta champions go temporarily top of the standings and no doubt they will be hellbent on racking up their third successive win and keeping alive their challenge.

Coach Luciano Zauri will be without defender Emerson Marcelina and midfielder Roko Prsa who must serve a one-match ban.

But on the plus side, they will welcome back in the fray winger Joseph Mbong and striker Uros Duranovic who missed the 1-0 win over Gżira United due to suspension.

Santa Lucia will be looking to try and make the most of the Spartans’ frailties in recent weeks in a bid to pick up valuable points in their relegation fight.

However, they will be aware that they need to be at their best to thwart the Spartans’ challenge.

Coach Alessandro Zinnari will be without Abraham Temitope who must serve a one-match ban.

Santa Lucia’s relegation rivals Balzan and Valletta will face off in a crucial clash which sees both sides needing all three points to boost their hopes of extending their stay in the top flight for another season.

Both Balzan and Valletta came close to securing crucial victories last weekend but conceded late goals and had to settle for a draw.

Balzan were pegged by Sliema Wanderers in stoppage time while Valletta were denied by Jurgen Degabriele’s equaliser against Hibernians.

That disappointment will surely spur both Balzan and Valletta to go out in search of the three points to move out of this difficult situation.

On the other hand, Mosta – after last week’s damaging 4-0 defeat to Floriana – need a strong reaction when they face a Hibernians team seeking fourth place in the standings.

Any hope Mosta have of taking all points from the match will rely mostly on whether they can remove the defensive frailties displayed against Floriana.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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