The relegation battle is tight as ever as three teams enter the final day of the Premier League season with the chance of preserving their top-flight status.
At present, Pietà Hotspurs are the only side to have lost their battle to stay in the top-flight following a 2-0 defeat to Ħamrun Spartans last weekend.
There are only four points separating the other three other teams battling to avoid the drop, namely, Senglea Athletics (23 points), St Andrews (21) and Qormi (19).
Senglea will start Matchday 26 in the driving seat and need to beat Birkirkara to be 100 per cent sure to play in the top-flight next season.
Although they are currently in a safe position, should they fail to pick maximum spoils, the Cottonera side could either finish level on points with St Andrews or even more below in the play-out spot where they face the third-placed team from Division One.
St Andrews face a Gżira United side who have nothing more to ask from their campaign having already sealed their spot in next season’s Europa League qualifiers.
Led by Johann Scicluna, St Andrews need to win and hope in a Senglea slip-up for automatic salvation.
Nonetheless, the Saints will have to look behind them as well as Qormi are piling up the pressure on them to avoid the drop.
A defeat for St Andrews coupled with a win for Qormi against Mosta would see the latter leapfrog the Saints and move into the play-out spot, while a decider for the play-out game could be also forced should St Andrews draw and Qormi win.
All three teams will be in action simultaneously tonight (kick-off: 8pm).
Senglea coach Vincenzo Potenza is hopeful that his team can complete the job after an impressive second round campaign which has seen the Cottonera outfit leave the bottom spot and move out of the red zone.
“We have marked the second round with some fantastic results that have injected huge boost into our environment as we managed to reach the 23 point-mark after a dismal start to the season,” Potenza told the Times of Malta.
“We are aware of our talent and we know that we can give a hard time to everyone, but obviously it will be difficult because there is salvation at stake.”
Despite falling to a 2-0 defeat against Hibernians, Senglea are on the back of some commanding showings including draws against teams like Sliema Wanderers, Ħamrun and Tarxien Rainbows.
In Birkirkara, Senglea will have another daunting task and Potenza is wary of the Stripes’ threat.
“Birkirkara may have nothing to fight for in the league but they are still a squad full of important players, which will raise the difficulty of this encounter,” he explained.
“This will be the game of our lives, even though we feel that we have already did our part because we have 23 points and we are in ideal position. However, we still need to overcome the Birkirkara hurdle in order to make sure that we stay in the top-flight for another season.”
On his part Scicluna, is aware of the critical situation that St Andrews are at the moment, but having defeated Floriana last weekend, he is hopeful that his team can pull off another upset.
“Unfortunately, we did not really replace the departed players who left in January and that created a void, in particular in the offensive department,” Scicluna explained.
“That hindered our progress in the league as we started to lose points and the teams behind us started to close the gap, ending up in the situation that we are now involved in.
“The win against Floriana has injected a lot of self-belief and we know that we need the three points if we want to stay up.”
Although the Maroons may have little to play for, Scicluna is still not taking today’s opponents lightly, especially given their strength in depth.
“Gżira United may give a chance to some of their fringe players against us given that they have reached their objectives for the season but they still remain a solid team,” Scicluna said.
“That means that we need to focus on ourselves without putting any extra pressure on the team.”
Paying attention to this game will be Qormi who are boosted by their latest positive results including the upset wins over Hibernians and Birkirkara.
“We have built a squad that is competitive against any side, including the top dogs, and we are glad that we have kept our chances to stay up alive until the final day,” coach Mario Muscat said.
“Obviously, our fate lies on other results but we still need to do our part and claim the spoils against Mosta.”
Asked about whether he is concerned about the fact that the Saints will face a Gżira side who have no more objectives to play for, Muscat maintained his focus on his team’s duties.
“It could be true that Gżira might have no motivation for this game but we still need to complete our job and see what happens afterwards,” Muscat said.
“We had the objective of reaching 23 points, and if we win against Mosta we would come up just one point shy from that target.
“I think it is a reward for all the effort put in by the players and the technical staff in the past five months in having still the chance to maintain our spot among the big boys.”
National Stadium: 6pm Tarxien Rainbows vs Floriana; 8pm Qormi vs Mosta.
Hibs Stadium: 8pm St Andrews vs Gżira United.
Tedesco Stadium: 8pm Birkirkara vs Senglea Athletic.
National Stadium: 4pm Valletta vs Ħamrun Spartans.
Centenary Stadium: 4pm Sliema Wanderers vs Pietà Hotspurs.
Hibs Stadium: Hibernians vs Balzan.
For the relegation race on Friday and the title battle on Saturday, the Times of Malta Sports Desk will be bringing you to live coverage through a live blog which we invite you to follow on our website starting from Friday evening.
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