Valletta will be looking to keep the pressure on leaders Birkirkara this evening when the Citizens play Qormi at the National Stadium (7.30 p.m.).

Birkirkara's unbelievable recovery against Hibernians on Sunday, has inevitably been a major talking point since Sunday as the media and the fans avidly discussed the Stripes' comeback from 1-4 down to beat the Paolites 5-4 and restore a four-point lead over Valletta with only two matches to go.

Yesterday evening, Qormi added more fodder to local football debate when announcing they had parted ways with coach Jesmond Zerafa after three years in charge.

At the end of a meeting between high officials from the club and Zerafa, it was decided that both parties should go their way as, it seems, the coach was not ready to commit his future to Qormi FC and asked for more time before signing a new contract.

"Jesmond Zerafa is no longer our coach," Qormi FC official Redino Apap said.

"We had a meeting at the end of which it was decided that both sides should part ways. The team is now in the hands of Vince Carbonaro."

Controversies aside, a win against Qormi today is essential for Valletta to maintain their outside chance of pipping the Stripes to the post even though they knew weeks before that their fate is no longer in their hands.

Valletta depend on other teams to put a spoke in Birkirkara's wheels and after Hibs, it is Tarxien's turn to try and halt the leaders tomorrow. If not, Birkirkara will clinch their third title with a game to spare.

Coach Ton Caanen is urging his players to maintain focus and win convincingly as they did in their last three matches.

"We have no intention of bowing out without a fight," the Dutchman said.

"Against Qormi, we'll be totally motivated to take all three points that would keep us in the running for the league. Birkirkara are clearly in the driving seat but we must try and keep the pressure on them in the hope that they slip up.

"We did really well in the last three matches. Last week, we were good enough to beat Sliema despite being down to 10 men and that shows the great character of this team. The odds are against us but all I am focused on at the moment is to beat Qormi and keep hoping till the end."

Caanen is unable to field his strongest formation today as defender Luke Dimech is out to serve a ban following his red card at half-time against the Wanderers.

Dimech was involved in an altercation with a section of the City fans during the match against Sliema.

Last night, Valletta FC said Dimech has now been suspended from all club activities until the end of the season.

Qormi will have to do without chief goal-getter Camillo Sanvezzo and midfielder Stefan Giglio, both suspended.

Previous results: Valletta vs Qormi 2-0, 1-0, 3-0.

Suspensions

Tarxien Rainbows had three players ruled out of tomorrow's match against Birkirkara through suspension - Everton Pereira, Manuel Caruana and Steve Sadowski.

The other players on the suspensions' list, besides Dimech, Camillo and Giglio, were Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (Sliema Wanderers), Manuel Bartolo and Lyden Micallef (Msida), and Yan Cauchi (Hibernians).

Programme (National Stadium)

Today: 7.30 p.m. Qormi vs Valletta.

Tomorrow: 6 p.m. Sliema vs Hibs; 8 p.m. Birkirkara vs Tarxien.

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