Floriana president Johann Said has urged his team to keep up the pressure on leaders Hibernians as the Greens face Birkirkara for the second time in the space of a week at the National Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 4pm).
The Greens are currently just two points adrift of leaders Hibernians and are aware that a win against Birkirkara would see them take top spot in the standings for at least 24 hours before the Paolites take on Gudja United tomorrow.
Floriana head into the match with a clear psychological edge over their opponents after they managed to see off Birkirkara 3-1 in Monday’s FA Trophy quarter-final to stay on course for stunning league and cup double.
President Johann Said told the Times of Malta that the match against Birkirkara was being treated like a ‘final’ by his club.
“For us, the match against Birkirkara is another final,” Said said.
“Our main objective is to keep up the pressure of Hibernians and stay close to them. I have been pleased with the team’s consistency not only in this part of the season but throughout the campaign.
“We need to understand that being just two points adrift of the leaders we have an obligation ensure we keep the pressure on them.
“A lot has been said on our victory against them in the FA Trophy, but that will mean nothing as it’s going to be a completely different story. We are aware of Birkirkara’s potential. Along with Ħamrun Spartans and Hibernians, they were expected to challenge for the title as they have been building their team for the last five years.
“But we are obliged to keep believing in our quest to try and keep challenging for the title till the end and now is the time that the players show their real character.”
While Floriana have every reason to be smiling before today’s showdown, the same cannot be said of Birkirkara who had a turbulent week following their FA Trophy exit as the club decided to part ways with coach Andre Paus, with Jonathan Holland, his assistant this season, taking over the reins of the team for the final three matches.
Club president Michael Valenzia said that the decision to part ways with Paus was taken in a very amicable way and that he has no doubt that Jonathan Holland will be able to do a good job for the team who are keen to secure European football next season.
“We have been working with Andre Paus for the past three years and we have built a very good relationship with him,” Valenzia said.
“There was an agreement between us that once our participation in the FA Trophy would finish we would sit down and talk on the future. We spoke on the work he carried out and we came to an agreement to not extend his contract.
Andre told me that since his contract would not be extended, he decided not to be in charge of the team for the last three matches.
“After Andre’s departure, I decided to hand the team to Jonathan Holland who I believe is a great coach and I’m sure that he will do a great job for us.
“Jonathan Holland is a great coach and I’m sure that he will effect little changes that will enable us to hold onto third spot that would earn us a place in Europe which is key for our future.
“This season, as a club, we did a lot of work from an administrative point of view that will put the club in a more solid foundation in the near future.
“There were times this season where we lost some key players for long spells and that inevitably put us in a difficult position.
“We are building a solid foundation for the future and our next three matches against Floriana, Hibernians and Ħamrun Spartans, will define our season as qualification to UEFA club competitions will make the 2021-22 campaign a successful one.
“The players know their responsibilities and after our FA Trophy exit I expect the right response to ensure we finish the campaign in the right way.”
Results so far: Floriana vs Birkirkara 1-1, 1-0.