Ħamrun Spartans will be looking to bounce back from their opening-day defeat to Valletta when they take on Birkirkara in the plum fixture of MatchDay 2 of the BOV Premier League on Saturday (kick-off: 7pm).
Last week, the Spartans were left reeling after they threw away a first-half lead during a five-minute blackout midway through the second half which saw Mario Fontanella grab a quick-fire double to hand the Citizens a flying start to their league campaign and condemn the Reds to an unexpected defeat.
The Reds face another tough assignment on Saturday evening when they face a Birkirkara side who are brimming with confidence after their impressive 3-0 win over Mosta last weekend.
Mark Buttigieg, the Ħamrun Spartans coach, admitted that the result against Valletta was very disappointing but urged his players to turn their frustration into a positive energy to kickstart their campaign.
“There is obviously a lot of frustration and anger among other players after the result against Valletta,” Buttigieg told the Times of Malta.
“It was a very disappointing outcome to a match that we held control of for much of the 90 minutes but sloppy defending from our side cost us dearly as Valletta scored from their only two shots on target.
“Now it’s important to use these frustrations and convert them into positive energy and try and regain our full focus. We know that we are facing a very strong team, but I have a lot of belief in my team and we should build on all the positives we showed against Valletta.”
The Ħamrun coach is again expected to be without midfield duo Luke Gambin and Matthew Guillaumier who are not fit to play but otherwise he has a full squad at his disposal.
Buttigieg says that the Spartans must approach the match against Birkirkara with maximum concentration as the Stripes are looking a formidable side this season.
“It’s no secret that Birkirkara are one of the best teams on the island,” Buttigieg, who was part of the Stripes technical staff a few years ago, said.
“They have been building their squad during the past few years and in the last two seasons they showed that they have the potential to challenge for the major honours. This summer they continued to strengthen the team and added to that they have an edge over us in the sense that they have played more competitive matches than we did and that could prove decisive.
“But this is a challenge that we are relishing and I hope the players rise to the occasion as we need to perform to our full potential.”
Birkirkara will be relishing the prospect of trying to add more woes on the Malta champions, particularly after their brisk performance in their opening-day win over Mosta.
Coach Andre Paus further boosted his ranks this week with the capture of veteran Argentine defender Enzo Ruiz who put pen to paper on a two-year deal.
The Dutch coach said that for the Stripes the match against Ħamrun represented another major test of how far they can go this season and said it was important that his players approached the match with a good attitude.
“Every match we play is another test for our team, irrespective of who we are facing,” Paus said.
“It’s important that we approach the match with a good attitude, show passion and play as a team or else we will have problems.
“Contrary to the past two seasons, this term we started the league campaign on a winning note and it’s important that we keep up the momentum. In the last two seasons, we dropped a lot of points at the start and they came back to haunt us towards the end of the season as we could challenge for the main honours.
“This time we started well and we have to keep the momentum going. We are aware that we are facing a very strong team in Ħamrun Spartans but today every team in the Premier League is capable of cause you problems if you don’t approach the match with the right attitude.
“A win against Ħamrun Spartans will not only provide us with three important points but more than that it can instil confidence in the players that this could be our year to challenge for the league title.
“Ħamrun are coming into this match on the back of a disappointing defeat against Valletta and no doubt they will have a lot of pressure to perform. But we need to focus on ourselves and ensure that we play in the right manner if we want to get the result we want.”
PLAYING ON SATURDAY
Birkirkara vs Ħamrun Spartans 19.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Valletta vs Balzan 19.00
Sta Lucia vs Gżira United 19.00
TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Hibernians vs Gudja United 19.00