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Ħamrun Spartans look to end 2022 on a high as rivals continue their chase

Ħamrun Spartans will be looking to preserve their commanding seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings when they face lowly Marsaxlokk as the final programme before the Christmas break will be played between Thursday and Saturday.

The Spartans start as firm favourites to bag all three points on Friday against the struggling southseasiders and consolidate their leadership before the start of the second part of the season.

Branko Nisevic’s men may have not set any houses on fire in the last few weeks but the team has been showing tremendous solidity in their performances and the Reds will relish ending the year in style by bagging their third successive win at the expense of Marsaxlokk.

The Spartans will be hopeful to have defender Steve Borg back in the fray while Marsaxlokk are sure to be without Emerson Vella who saw red in their 2-1 defeat to Valletta last week.

While Ħamrun seem to be making a solitary run at the top of the standings, the battle for the European places is turning out to be a real fight with four teams separated by just four points.

Hibernians’ bid to remain in the hunt of the Spartans faces a tricky test when they face Valletta on Saturday.

The Paolites have been on a roll lately as back-to-back wins in the league have lifted them to second place in the standings while their morale has been further boosted after they secured the Super Cup trophy after a thrilling shoot-out victory over Floriana at the Gozo Stadium.

Coach Andrea Pisanu will hope his team can maintain their positive momentum as they seek the three points that would ensure they finish the year in second place, and keep alive their hopes of mounting a title challenge in 2023.

The Paolites, however, will have to do without key defender Ferdinando Apap who must serve a one-match ban.

Valletta, on the other hand, will be desperate to clinch the three points as they seek to move closer to the top places in the standings.

The Citizens have been anything but consistent so far this season and surely they must step up a gear if they are to put themselves back in the reckoning for a place in European football next summer.

Coach Thane Micallef also must make at least one change from the team that beat Marsaxlokk as Eslit Sala must serve a one-match ban.

Gżira United and Birkirkara will be ready to pounce on any possible Hibernians slip up and jump into second place with victories against relegation rivals Santa Lucia and Sirens respectively.

The Maroons open this week’s programme when they face Sta Lucia on Thursday and will be hoping they can rediscover their consistency in terms of results to further strengthen their hopes of a European berth.

Birkirkara, on the other hand, are also on a roll as Giovanni Tedesco’s men have put themselves back in the hunt for second place with wins over Pieta Hotspurs and Balzan.

The Stripes will be without Kurt Zammit who must serve a one-match ban after picking the fourth booking against Balzan.

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