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Hibs and Sliema try to keep up pressure on Ħamrun Spartans

Sliema midfielder Gabriel Pace moves past Bjorn Kristensen, of Hibernians.

Hibernians and Sliema Wanderers will be looking to keep up the pressure on Premier League pacesetters Ħamrun Spartans when they face each other at the Hibs Stadium tomorrow, in the plum fixture of this weekend. 

The Paolites and the Wanderers have enjoyed a very positive campaign so far, and have emerged among the leading challengers for the title crown this season.

At present, Hibernians are second in the standings just two points adrift of the Spartans with the Wanderers sitting in third place a further point back.

No doubt a win tomorrow would not only significantly boost either team’s title charge but will provide a huge psychological lift as the championship enters the business end of the season.

Sliema Wanderers come into the match determined to bounce back from last week’s

3-1 defeat to Mosta and coach Andrea Pisanu is hopeful his players will show more mental toughness in difficult moments of the match.

“This is another difficult test for us,” Pisanu told The Times of Malta.

“We are playing against a very strong team and it will be important that my players show their character. The defeat to Mosta was a small hiccup for us following a good run of results but was an eye-opener for the players.

“Against Mosta, our performance was very good, particularly in the first half, but we looked confused in the first ten minutes of the second half and we ended up conceding two goals, and from then the match was gone.

“What I expect from my players is to try and stick to our football philosophy not only when we are winning but more importantly  when we are losing.

“I’m aware that matches could be difficult to turn around but it’s in these instances that one shows his mental strength and character. It’s important that we improve from this aspect.”

Asked whether he is looking to bring in reinforcements during the January transfer window, Pisanu said: “To be honest, I have spoken to the club administration of what I would like but it’s up to them to see if it’s possible.

“However, I want to emphasise that I am more than happy with the players that I have.”

On his part, Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra needs no reminding of the threat posed by Pisanu’s men as in the corresponding first-round fixture the Paolites were outplayed by the Wanderers and finished on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat.

“We are bracing ourselves for a very difficult match,” Sanderra said.

“The championship is entering a very decisive phase where I feel that it will take a decisive twist given the direct clashes that will be played between the top-placed teams in the division.

“It’s no secret that Sliema Wanderers are a very organised side who boast some top quality strikers but more importantly is formed by a group of players that work their socks off on the pitch.

“In the corresponding first round fixture we experienced first hand how dangerous Sliema can be as they outran us for much of the match and we ended up suffering a painful defeat. So I expect my players to be ready to sacrifice themselves for the whole 90 minutes and ensure that our game plan will prevail.”

The Hibernians coach is set to give a debut to new signing Imanol Iriberri after the

Argentine forward returned to the club after a disappointing spell at Ħamrun Spartans.

The Paolites could still be in the market in search of a forward given that the future of striker Karolis Laukzemis is in doubt. 

PROGRAMME

TODAY

CENTENARY STADIUM

Sirens vs Ħamrun Spartans      19.00

TOMORROW

HIBS STADIUM

Hibernians vs Sliema W.           14.00

Balzan vs Tarxien R.     18.00

NATIONAL STADIUM

Gżira United vs Floriana   14.00

PLAYING SUNDAY

NATIONAL STADIUM

Sta Lucia vs Żejtun C.  14.00

Standings provided by SofaScore LiveScore

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