The 2021-22 Premier League title race could take a decisive twist this weekend when leaders Hibernians take on nearest rivals Floriana at the National Stadium on Saturday (kick-off: 4pm).
At present, Hibernians are enjoying a two-point cushion lead over Floriana and with only four matches to play till the end of the season, a win for the Paolites could give them a handy five-point lead that would push them closer to the title crown.
Still, the side from Paola arrive for today’s top-of-the-table clash wounded after their defeat to champions Ħamrun Spartans last Monday and will be keen to rediscover their best form as they look to reassert their dominance in the championship.
Hibs forward Jake Grech admitted that the defeat against Ħamrun was a hard pill to swallow and are determined to bounce that in such an important match.
“After the international break we had a very difficult match against Ħamrun Spartans, who have always been one of the biggest challengers for the honours this season,” Grech said.
“It’s true that we shared the exchanges with them and had our chances but we simply didn’t exploit them while Ħamrun were more clinical.
“One encouraging factor was the character shown by the team as every time we found ourselves behind, we produced a strong reaction and had enough chances to at least take a point.
“But that match is now in the past and we used this week to recover all our energy and ensure that we can play at our best against Floriana as it’s a key match for us.
“A lot has been said on our 4-1 win over Floriana a few weeks ago, but honestly, that will count for nothing on Saturday as how we perform on the day that will decide the outcome of the match. So we just need to remain focused on the job ahead.”
Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra is forced to make at least one change from the team that faced Ħamrun Spartans as midfielder Dunstan Vella must serve a one-match ban.
Floriana, on the other hand, too had little to smile about lately after suffering back-to-back defeats to Hibernians (4-1) and Gżira United (1-0) in their last two league excursions.
Ryan Camenzuli said that the team’s latest results have not been up to the standard the players are used to but said that such setbacks have only helped the team to work harder and become a stronger unit.
“It’s clear that at the moment we are not showing our best football,” Camenzuli said.
“But during this time we continue to work hard on the training pitch and the unity in the squad has got even stronger as we want to be at our best against Hibernians.
“I cannot hide, that among us players there is a lot of expectancy for this match as we want to show that we are a far better team than the one that lost to Hibernians 4-1. The match against Hibernians is an opportunity for us that we deserve to challenge for the title.
“The team is creating a lot scoring chances but we are not putting the ball into the net and that has to change if we are to beat Hibernians. The quality is there and it’s up to us to express on the pitch.”
Results so far: Hibernians vs Floriana 0-0, 4-1.