Leaders Hibernians face a major test of their title credentials on Sunday when they face champions Ħamrun Spartans as the BOV Premier League is back on the top of the agenda following the national team’s commitments in their final World Cup qualifiers.
These may still be early days in this season’s title race but the importance of tomorrow’s clash at the National Stadium should not be underestimated for either side as Hibernians will be keen to strengthen their leading status in the standings while the Spartans will be desperate for the three points to try and claw themselves back in the title race.
At present, Hibernians are leading the way on 18 points after eight matches, three clear of Birkirkara with the Spartans in fifth place on 12 points.
Stefano Sanderra, the Hibernians coach, said that his players will have little problems motivating themselves to face the Malta champions, who in his words were the strongest side in Malta for the last two years.
“My players will have little problems motivating themselves when they face the Malta champions,” Sanderra said.
“In the last two years, Ħamrun have developed into the strongest side in Malta so we know we in for a very difficult match. But we need to look at ourselves and ensure that
we produce our best possible performance.
“One area that we certainly need to improve is to try and take the chances that come our way. Against Birkirkara, we had long spells of possession but we could not convert our chances into goals and that cost us the three points in the end.
“At the moment, I’m not looking at the standings, the focus
is on one match at a time. We have five very important matches coming up and we will try to pick up as many points as possible, so we arrive to the start of the year in the best possible position.”
Sanderra is boosted by the return of Albanian striker Erjon Beu, who spent the majority of the season in the treatment room, and the nippy forward will surely bring an added dimension to the Paolites forward line.
On the other hand, Ħamrun Spartans are fully aware of the importance of the clash against Hibernians.
No margin for error
Coach Mark Buttigieg admitted that his team cannot afford to drop any points tomorrow if they are to remain firmly in the hunt to be involved in this season’s title race.
“It may still be early in the campaign, but given our situation, we simply cannot afford any slip-ups if we are to stay in the title race,” the Gozitan coach said.
“It’s imperative for us to build on all the positives we showed in our last outing against Sirens and continue our ascendancy in the standings.
“It’s clear that we are facing the best team in the division at the moment – the table doesn’t lie. And we need to play a perfect match if we are to win all three points. Until now, we have failed to replicate the consistent performances we showed last season but it’s time that we click into gear and show the real potential of our team.
“The league championship is slowing moving to a decisive phase and we need to be focused and determined in every match that we play as there are no easy matches.
Buttigieg will again be without Spanish goalkeeper Pablo Sanchez, Serbian midfielder Predrag Djordjevic and striker Dodo who are sidelined with injury.