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Hibernians to face Ħamrun Spartans, Floriana in opening Top Six round matches

Hibernians will face Ħamrun Spartans in the opening round of matches of the Top Six. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Hibernians were handed a challenging start to their quest of winning the title as the Premier League leaders will be facing champions Ħamrun Spartans and nearest rivals Floriana in their opening two fixtures of the Top Six Final Round which were held at the Centenary Hall on Tuesday.

This season’s Premier League is being played under a new format as the top six teams at the end of the first two rounds were grouped in the Top Six Final Round with the bottom six sides facing each other in the Play Out Final Round.

The third round, which gets under way next month, will see teams in each category facing each other once, thus adding more weight to the importance of each fixture ahead of the club’s final standing at the end of the campaign.  

Hibernians are currently on cloud nine after last weekend they produced a five-star display to crush nearest rivals Floriana 4-1 to go back on top of the Premier League, two points clear of the Greens.

However, Stefano Sanderra’s team will have their title ambitions put under severe test in the opening two matches of the final round.

In their opening match, the Paolites take on a Ħamrun Spartans side who are desperate to at least push their way among the top three teams in the division and earn qualification to UEFA Conference League qualifiers this summer.

The Spartans are currently fourth in the standings on 35 points, just one behind third-placed Birkirkara.

Then, Hibernians will be up against second-placed Floriana who no doubt will be keen on exacting revenge on the Premier League leaders after their poor showing in last weekend’s top-of-the table clash.

Floriana, on the other hand, open their third-round commitments when they face Gżira United. This is set to be another tough test for the Greens as they face a Gżira team who are desperate to push their way back in contention for a top three finish.

At present, Gżira United are in fifth place on 33 points, but just three away from third-placed Birkirkara.

On paper, Birkirkara have the most favourable opening fixture when they face Gudja United, fresh from their historic qualification to the top category in the Premier League.

However, things will get tougher for the Stripes in their next two fixtures when they face rivals Gżira United and Floriana.

In the bottom category, named Play Out final round, the first Match Day has provided a second successive showdown between second-from bottom Sta Lucia and Balzan FC, who are sitting just ahead of them in the standings.

Last weekend, Sta Lucia blew the relegation race wide open when they stunned Balzan with a Alan Da Silva Souza strike in stoppage time to move just one point behind them.

Valletta FC open their Play Out round commitments with a tricky test against Sirens as both teams will be seeking the three points to distance themselves from the relegation zone.

Mosta will open their third round commitments with a clash against bottom-side Sliema Wanderers, in a match that could push the Wanderers, who are currently 11 points behind third-from-bottom Balzan, closer to relegation if they suffer defeat.

FIRST PROGRAMME

TOP SIX FINAL ROUND

Birkirkara vs Sirens

Ħamrun Spartans vs Hibernians

Floriana vs Gżira United

PLAY OUT FINAL ROUND

Sliema vs Mosta

Balzan vs Sta Lucia

Sirens vs Valletta

MATCH SEQUENCE

HIBERNIANS: Ħamrun Spartans; Floriana; Gudja United; Birkirkara; Gżira United.

FLORIANA: Gżira United; Hibernians; Birkirkara; Ħamrun Spartans; Gudja United.

BIRKIRKARA: Gudja United; Gzira; Floriana; Hibernians Hamrun Spartans.

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS: Hibernians; Gudja United; Gżira United; Floriana; Birkirkara.

GŻIRA UNITED: Floriana; Birkirkara; Ħamrun Spartans; Gudja United; Hibernians.

GUDJA UNITED: Birkirkara; Ħamrun Spartans; Hibernians; Gżira United; Floriana.

SIRENS: Valletta; Sta Lucia; Sliema Wanderes; Balzan; Mosta.

VALLETTA: Sirens; Sliema W.; Balzan; Mosta; Sta Lucia.

MOSTA: Sliema Wanderers; Balzan; Sta Lucia; Valletta; Sirens.

BALZAN: Sta Lucia; Mosta; Valletta; Sirens; Sliema Wanderers.

STA LUCIA: Balzan; Sirens; Mosta; Sliema Wanderers; Valletta.

SLIEMA WANDERERS: Mosta; Valletta; Sirens; Sta Lucia; Balzan.

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