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Front-runners Hibernians and Birkirkara eye title tonic

Hibernians and Birkirkara will be looking for an early psychological boost in their pursuit of Premier League glory this season as the front-runners in this season’s title race will go head-to-head at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kick-off: 3pm).

At present, there are only three points separating leaders Hibernians from their nearest rivals Birkirkara and although these are still early days in this season’s title race a win for either side will no doubt provide a much-needed tonic for their hopes of silverware this season.

Hibernians have been the most in-form side in the division this season as the Paolites are still unbeaten after seven matches and defender Andrei Agius admitted that a win this afternoon could provide his team a much-needed cushion ahead of more testing times.

“It may seem as a repetitive rhetoric but in a league campaign every match is important as there are always three points at stake,” the veteran defender told the Times of Malta.

“It’s true that the championship is still at an early stage but no doubt a win against Birkirkara would put us in a commanding position with a six-point buffer over our rivals, which could come in handy should we encounter a difficult patch.

“Added to that when you win against your direct rival it’s a huge psychological boost that injects much-needed self-confidence in your qualities both as a player and as a team.”

The Paolites this afternoon are expected to have almost a full squad available with the only doubt being Albanian Erjon Beu who is facing a race against time to be fit.

Agius is one of the most experienced players in the Premier League and no doubt has enough knowledge on what will be the major factors that could decide the match in his team’s favour.

“I believe that it will be very important for us to try and keep control of the match for as long as possible,” Agius said.

“On more than one occasion this season we looked in control in a couple of matches but then all of a sudden we like switched off and we surely cannot afford to do that against a team of the quality of Birkirkara.

“Birkirkara have a very competitive squad that boasts talent not only in its first XI but also on the bench so it will be important that we execute our game plan to perfection or we risk getting punished.”

Birkirkara come into the match on the back of a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Sirens and defender Enrico Pepe said that there is a great desire in the Stripes camp to bounce back with a strong performance against Hibernians.

“The defeat against Sirens hurt us a lot and there is a great desire among the players to show that we are much better than that,” the Malta defender said.

“We were in control for much of the match but then a couple of episodes in the second half completely changed the complexity of the match and when we saw our two-goal lead vanish we seemed to be mentally blocked.

“But that is in the past and we are looking forward to our match against Hibernians.  For us, this match represents a good opportunity to show that we are ready to challenge for the title this season.

“This team has been developing and growing for the last two years as in football you don’t achieve success overnight. We know we are facing a very strong team and it will be imortant that every player in our squad fights and spends every ounce of his energy towards one objective – to win.

“There is great desire and hopefully we can do the job against Hibs.”

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