Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra has called upon his players to provide the right response to seeing their unbeaten run halted by Birkirkara last week when they face Malta champions Ħamrun Spartans this afternoon (kick-off: 4pm).
Last weekend, Hibernians suffered their first defeat of the season when they were at the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline to Birkirkara. That upset saw their lead at the top of the standings cut to just one point from nearest rivals Floriana and the Paolites cannot afford another slip-up this afternoon which would risk forfeiting the top status they have held since the start of the season.
Coach Sanderra said that he was not too disappointed with the performance of his players against Birkirkara but said that he hopes the players show their true character to try and get all three points against the Spartans.
“To be honest, it was always going to be difficult to go throughout the season unbeaten,” Sanderra said.
“Personally, I was not too disappointed with the performance of the players as there were other matches this season where I felt that we played much worse than we did against Birkirkara. Don’t forget that we faced a very strong side who I think deserved to take all three points.
“When defeats arrive, it’s how you react to it that is key. The players this week have been visibly disappointed with the Birkirkara result and are keen to make amends this weekend. I believe that in these matches we need to show more our character and determination which could prove crucial to where the game will swing.
“No doubt, we have another difficult test coming up in the form of Ħamrun Spartans who are too not passing from the best of time, so it will be important that we approach the match with the right motivation and fully determined to come out on top.”
Sanderra will be without two key players today as defensive duo Andrei Agius and Leandro Almeida are both suspended.
While Hibernians were licking their wounds following the defeat to Birkirkara, Ħamrun Spartans had little to smile about last weekend following a disappointing 1-1 draw against Sirens that left them 12 points adrift of the Paolites and still with work to do to assure themselves of a place in this season’s Championship Pool.
Coach Branko Nisevic admits that the Spartans face a very complicated situation given their poor form of late but is hopeful that his players can rise to the occasion and grab what would be a crucial victory in their quest for a top-six finish.
“The match on its own looks complicated for us,” Nisevic said.
“Both Hibernians and us are desperate for the three points. We certainly have little margin for error to try and secure our place in the Championship Pool as soon as possible.
“There is no hiding that this is not the best moment for us as the team has been without a win for several weeks now and several players are not in the best of their physical condition.
“But I’m heartened with the players’ application during training and I hope that we can step up our game as it’s going to be a very difficult match for us.
“Against Sirens there were a lot of moments when we showed good quality play and I hope that we can build on that. This is the time for the players to stand up and show how much the team’s cause means for them and I’m sure that a win over Hibernians could be a game-changer to our season.”
First round result: Hibernians vs Ħamrun Spartans 1-0.