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National Championship

Sliema face Neptunes as Premier Division gets under way

The 2020 BOV National Championship enters an important stage on Tuesday evening when the Premier Division and the First Division get under way at the National Pool.

On Monday, the cross-over phase of the championship was completed with San Ġiljan topping the Premier Division on 15 points, three clear of Neptunes with Sliema a further three points back.

The First Division saw Valletta topping the charts on 12 points with Marsaxlokk in second place on nine points.

With the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta forced to make some changes to this year’s format of the Premier Division, due to the threat of another stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the top-flight is set to provide some balanced high-quality matches in the next seven days that will decide who will proceed to the semi-finals and who will have to settle for a place in the play-offs.

The ASA, in a bid to shorten the number of matches played, has decided to split the top division in two factions with the top three sides San Ġiljan, Neptunes and Sliema facing each other once, with the top two side proceeding to the last-four play-offs.

On the other hand, the other side in this section will be involved in the play-offs with the bottom-tier of the Premier Division, formed by Exiles, Birżebbuġa and Sirens.

The Premier Division kicks off this evening with a mouth-watering clash as Sliema and Neptunes will be eyeing maximum spoils as they look to close the gap on leaders San Ġiljan.

This will be the second time that the two rivals face each other in the space of a week as last week, Neptunes crushed Sliema 14-4 in a one-sided encounter.

That defeat was surely a wake-up call for Sergio Afric’s Sliema ahead of the upcoming decisive phase of the championship.

The Blues were seen by many as one of the favourites to win the title this summer after their triumph in the Enemed Cup. However, they must step up their game by several notches if they are to avenge that upset against the Balluta Bay side and put themselves back in the reckoning for a top-two finish.

Neptunes, on the other hand, will hold a psychological edge over their rivals after that victory. However, coach Jovan Popovic will hope his players show more consistency, particularly after their poor showing in a 13-10 defeat to San Ġiljan.

STANDINGS

PREMIER DIVISION (I)

San Ġiljan 15; Neptunes 12; Sliema 9.

PREMIER DIVISION (II)

Exiles 6; Birżebbuġa 3; Sirens 0

FIRST DIVISION

Valletta 12; Marsaxlokk 9; Ta’ Xbiex 4; Marsaskala 3; Otters 1.

PROGRAMME

PLAYING ON WEDNESDAY

Marsaskala vs Otters   18.00

Marsaxlokk vs Ta’ Xbiex            19.05

Neptunes vs Sliema     20.10

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