Coach Andre Paus is urging Birkirkara to rediscover their killing touch when the Stripes face Premier League leaders Hibernians at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 4pm).
For Birkirkara, today’s clash against the Paolites is a crucial test of their title aspirations as the Stripes are fully aware that they cannot afford to lose the match if they are to keep alive their hopes of winning the Premier League crown.
At present, Hibernians are currently leading the standings on 40 points, nine clear over third-placed Birkirkara, and a defeat today would all but strike a mortal blow to their championship crown.
Coach Andre Paus talked up the importance of today’s match and made it clear that his team needed to be more clinical if they are to stand any chance of upsetting the Premier League leaders.
“This is a huge test for us,” Birkirkara coach Andre Paus said.
“Hibernians are without doubt the form team in the division, but having said that, we are certainly not afraid of them. I believe that we have a team that is more than capable of competing with them.
“The biggest difference between the two teams at the moment is the efficiency in front of goals. If you look at the statistics, Hibernians have netted 32 goals while we only managed 24 goals.
“We are creating a lot of chances but we are simply not putting the ball into the net. A case in point was the match against Sirens where we had at least eight scoring chances but failed to score and we had to settle for a point.
“Undoubtedly, we can’t afford to waste our chances against Hibs as they are capable of
punishing us. But I am still looking forward to the match. I am very happy with the attitude and the spirit being shown by my players.
“The most important thing is that we stay alert throughout the whole 90 minutes and try and give them a good run for their money. It’s time to deliver a strong performance.”
While Birkirkara have struggled for consistency this season, Hibernians, on the other hand, have shown cold blood throughout the campaign as they managed to go on an unbeaten that has put them well into the driving seat of this season’s title title race.
Last week, Hibernians produced another clinical display as they managed to dismantle struggling Valletta 4-1 to preserve their four-point lead over nearest rivals Floriana.
However, despite their convincing victory over Valletta, coach Stefano Sanderra was still not fully pleased with the performance of his team who he thinks can still play much better.
“This is, without a doubt, another important test for our title credentials,” Sanderra told the Times of Malta.
“All matches are important but when you face teams of the calibre of Birkirkara, whom I rank among the heavyweights of Maltese football, you are set for a vibrant test that will test your technical qualities.
“We are coming into the match on the back of an important win against Valletta. Although the scoreline might suggest that we were dominant throughout, in reality we were very clinical as Valletta too had a fair share of possession and created chances that they failed to take.
“So definitely, we still have a lot of work to do on the way I want the team to play. In January we made a lot of changes in the squad and the new players now seem to be finally adapting into the system so there is ample room for improvement.
“The most important thing for me is that we keep working hard and take it one game at a time.”
Sanderra said that he is not interested in looking at the league standings at the moment, let alone talk of a title push.
“The mentality that I am trying to implement at our club is to focus on the next challenge we have in our hands rather than to look on the ultimate goal,” Sanderra said.
“With that mindset, all the players know that they have to work hard to always try to improve game by game and leave it to our fans to dream on winning the league title.
“When you face a team of the calibre of Birkirkara, you don’t have time to think anything either than on the match in itself.
“It’s going to be a great match, very high in intensity and I’m sure both sets of players will have great motivation to come out victorious.
“No doubt that the team who will want to win more than the other will prevail.”
First round result: Hibernians vs Birkirkara 1-1.