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Gżira face Ħamrun in must-win match

Gżira’s Yuri Messias (left) moves past Paul Mbong, of Birkirkara.

Ħamrun Spartans and Gżira United have little margin for error as they look to bridge the gap with the Premier League front-runners when they face off at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 17.00).

Champions Ħamrun Spartans and Gżira United were off to a poor start in this season’s Premier League campaign and are currently lagging leaders Hibernians by seven points after the opening six matches.

Both teams headed into the recent international window in positive fashion with Gżira United picking up four points from their last two outings against Valletta and Birkirkara while the Spartans bounced back from their poor showing against Balzan with a hard-fought win over Floriana.

Ħamrun Spartans coach Mark Buttigieg wants his players to build on their positive showing against Floriana as they look to go on a run of results.

“It is very important for us that we build on all the positive things we showed against Floriana before the international break,” Buttigieg told the Times of Malta.

“Against Floriana we had a number of players missing but the players that played showed great fighting spirit to get a much-needed win. But now it’s important that we step up our momentum and we take the field of play with one clear mindset, to get the three points.”

The Ħamrun Spartans coach said that his team have little margin for error against Gżira United as a victory is important if they are to bridge the gap with the Premier League front-runners.

“Our goal in the next three weeks is to try and win all the matches we have to try and bridge the gap with the top teams,” Buttigieg said.

“The start of the season was not what we would have liked and now the goal is to try and reduce the deficit with the leading teams in the standings before the start of the Championship Pool. To achieve that, we need to be more consistent both in terms of performances and in the results we attain.”

Buttigieg is sure to be without goalkeeper Henry Bonello who picked up an ankle injury during Malta’s World Cup qualifier against Cyprus and is set to be out for the next six weeks.

On his part, Darren Abdilla, the Gżira United coach, also talked up the importance of the clash against Ħamrun Spartans and said that he hopes his players can maintain the positive momentum generated by their performances in the win over Valletta and the 1-1 draw against Birkirkara.

“To be honest, I was encouraged with the performances of the team in our last two outings against Valletta and Birkirkara and it’s important that we maintain this form and try and win as many points as possible from our next three matches against Ħamrun Spartans, Balzan and Floriana,” Abdilla said.

“At the moment, I am not looking much at the standings as our goal is to try and win every match we play. This season every match is difficult and we need to face every match in the best possible form.

“The match against Ħamrun Spartans is a big match for us as we are facing one of the best teams in the division who are also looking to climb the standings. So a win against the champions would be an important psychological boost for the team.”

Borg injury

Abdilla will be facing Ħamrun Spartans without his captain after Steve Borg picked up an adductor tendon injury during Malta’s match against Cyprus that will rule him out for the next three months.

“The loss of Steve Borg is a big blow for us,” Abdilla said.

“He is not only one of the best defenders in Malta but he is also our captain and a player that every player at the club looks up to.

“Therefore we will not only miss his football talents but also his leadership skills.

“But I have no doubt that whoever replaces him will be up to the job.”

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