Stefano Sanderra has told his Hibernians players to focus on their game as the Paolites could be crowned as the new Malta champions when they face Birkirkara at the National Stadium on Sunday afternoon (kick-off: 3pm).
Last weekend, the Paolites took full advantage of Floriana’s failure to overcome Birkirkara when they eased past Gudja United 2-0 to move four points clear at the top.
With just two matches till the end of this season’s championship, it could be celebration time at the Paola club this weekend.
With nearest rivals Floriana facing outgoing champions Ħamrun Spartans on Saturday afternoon, the Paolites could be crowned champions for the 13th time in their history if the Greens lose to the Spartans.
If not, Hibernians can wrap up their league title success with victory over Birkirkara tomorrow afternoon.
Still, coach Sanderra has urged his Hibernians players not to give much importance on what their rivals do but just focus on finishing the job on their first opportunity tomorrow.
“There is a dangerous trap in front of us this weekend,” Sanderra said.
“If we use too much energy to focus on what other teams can do, we may well end up with a nasty surprise against Birkirkara. Our destiny is firmly in our hands and we must focus on ourselves and make sure to go on and take what we have been working for since the start of the season – the Premier League title.
“We may be at the top of the standings, but so far, we have achieved nothing and we need to be professional enough to focus on our game and ensure we finish the job.
“It’s important to remember that we have a very difficult match ahead of us as every time we faced Birkirkara this season we found ourselves in a very difficult situation.
“They are coming into the match after a very strong display against Floriana and are desperate for the three points to secure European football so we have to be ready for the task ahead.”
While Hibernians will be focused on sealing their title ambitions, Birkirkara will be well aware that they have little margin for error if they are to keep hold of their third-placing in the standings that would earn them an automatic berth to the UEFA Conference League qualifiers.
No margin for error
Jonathan Holland, who took over the reins at Birkirkara following the departure of Andre Paus, started his job with what he described as an encouraging display in a goalless draw with second-placed Floriana and hopes his team can build on that display against Hibernians.
“I was quite pleased with the performance of my players against Floriana,” Holland said.
“We may have left with only one point in the bag but there haven’t been many teams who managed to beat Floriana this season. The team was very solid and conceded very little. Maybe one area we should improve is the final third where we struggled to create chances and hopefully we can improve on that against Hibernians.
“For us, this is a must-win match if we are to stay ahead in our duel with Ħamrun Spartans for a place in European football. We want to qualify for the UEFA Conference League by taking third place.
“This season we showed that we have the quality to give Hibernians a good run for their money and our focus should be to try and give everything on the pitch to ensure we return home with all three points in our bag.”
Holland is expected to be boosted by the return of defender Enrico Pepe who missed the Floriana match with a one-match ban.
However, defender Cain Attard, midfielder Diego Venancio and forward Luke Montebello remain sidelined with injury.
Previous results: Hibernians Birkirkara 1-1; 2-3.