Emotions will be running high across the different stadia that will host Premier League matches this weekend as no less than four highly-charged derbies will held between today and tomorrow.
With the title race, the battle for European football and the relegation battle still wide open this ‘Derby Weekend’ will surely have a defining say on the 2017-18 season.
Gżira United can seal an historic qualification to European football with victory over Sliema Wanderers this evening.
Naxxar Lions and Mosta will go head to head seeking a crucial win that will define their future in the top flight next season while on the other hand Tarxien Rainbows, buoyed by their stunning win over Balzan, will seek another scalp in the form of Hibernians who are in the running for a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
Surely, all focus will be on the National Stadium where Valletta will be looking to move closer to a 24th league title with victory over their fierce rivals Floriana and preserve their one-point advantage over Balzan who face Senglea Athletic in the following match.
Morale is sky high in the Citizens’ clan after they took full advantage of Balzan’s slip up against Tarxien with a clinical 3-0 victory over Ħamrun Spartans that put them in the driving seat in this season’s title race.
Danilo Doncic, the City coach, is demanding a perfect game from his players against the Greens.
“Derbies against Floriana are always massive matches but this is carries much more significance as it could push us closer to winning the league title,”Doncic said.
“I was delighted with our performance against Ħamrun Spartans as the players stepped up their ante in such a key match but now it’s important that we can build on it.
“Floriana are always fully motivated to beat us in these matches and it’s up to the us to show all our hunger to lift the championship crown. I expect the players to go out an play a perfect game that would move us 90 minutes away from title glory.”
Doncic needs no reminding on how important these derbies are for City fans given his past as a prolific goal-getter for the capital club.
He is hopeful that the Valletta fans will today turn up in big numbers to roar his team to victory.
“I know too well how much our fans are demanding in these matches,” Doncic, who scored against Floriana on his Valletta debut in season 1994-95, said.
“From the information I have it looks like our fans will be turning up in big numbers against Floriana and that is very positive for us as surely their support will be important in key moments of the match.
“I hope we can win this match as there is no better feeling to send our supporters happy at home.”
For Floriana, today’s match against Valletta represents their final chance to remain in the race for fourth spot. They are currently trailing Birkirkara by two points and nothing less than three points will keep their European dream alive.
“For us this match is like a World Cup final because all our season will be at stake,” Nicholas Chiesa said.
“We have been training hard this week and have been going into a lot of detail to ensure that we arrive on the day in the best possible shape.
Although everyone is talking on how important this game is for Valletta, we know that we will be 11 players against each other and the best team on the day will hopefully prevail.
“The players were disappointed to throw away two points against Sliema last week and surely we cannot afford such lapses in concentration. I have no doubt that the players will rise to the occasion.”
Chiesa has no selection worries and could have striker Ignacio Varela back from a long-term injury.
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