The BOV Premier League has reached its business end, with just a few matches to go in the season. With the fight for European spots having been an entertaining contest so far, so has the battle to retain safety within Malta’s top division.
Żebbuġ Rangers, one of the teams promoted from the Challenge League this season, have had a tough return to the league and stand in 12th place, five points below Sirens and six above the penultimate spot occupied by Santa Lucia.
Their case for survival was aided significantly when they beat struggling Pieta’ Hotspurs 2-0 on Saturday, a day before Sirens lost to Balzan. However, coach Brian Spiteri believes the playout spot is his side’s more realistic position at this point in the season.
“The match against Pieta’ was important with regards to points. We’re currently third from bottom and I think that at this stage, this is the position we’re most likely to stay, even though it’s not game over yet and there are a good number of matches still to be played,” Spiteri told the Times of Malta.
Goals from Jeferson Machedo and Henrique Motta sealed the win for the Rangers against the Hotspurs in the second half. Spiteri said this was a fixture that they believed could be won.
“One has to keep in mind that in the first round, we had lost to Pieta’ so psychologically, they had that edge over us in the initial stages of the game,” Spiteri admitted.
They face another stiff test against Sirens, with a win bringing them to within two points.
“Primarily, the match against Sirens could mean more points – the thing I’m looking at is how to get more points from the next match, be it Sirens or any other team. This being said, even if we win, Sirens have matches against us, Santa Lucia and Pieta’ while we have clashes with Floriana, Valletta, and Hamrun, so it’s going to be a bit difficult,” Spiteri said.
“I believe we have had a run of four games in which our performances have been good and it’s important to keep this streak going even if for the sake of experience – we have players experiencing the Premier League for the first time and I think it would be a showcase for them to prove their talent in the highest division of Maltese football.”
Asked about how he feels about his side’s position, Spiteri believes Żebbuġ have been a tough opponent in most of their matches and that particularly in the second round, they have found the right formula.
“Apart from Birkirkara in the second round, we have competed well in most of our matches. We were close to achieving a lot in our matches, but I think this happened more in the second round,” he explained.
“With the changes we’ve made and added experience among our players who saw what the Premier League is all about, our performances got better, and I think we found the formula to face certain opponents.
“At the moment, we’re not focusing on the play-out, but on the next match. Since the start of the year, we’ve had matches week in, week out and this coming weekend will be the first ‘break’. So, we’ll be using it to recover some injuries and prepare for the rest of our matches.”
Compared to previous seasons, being in such a position will be an upgrade to what they had achieved. Spiteri believes this season has been one which gives them courage.
“As a club, avoiding relegation would be a very big thing – Żebbuġ have gotten relegated every season they were promoted and the last time they were here, they had a greater budget and squad depth and still didn’t manage, yet here we are,” Spiteri said.
“We’ve had disappointments, but the atmosphere has always been positive. We’ve had matches that gave us courage, like the win against Gudja when everybody knows the kind of season they’ve had. But this is no guarantee of what’s to come so we need to keep working hard.”
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