Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla is expecting a tough test this evening when they take on Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium (kick-off: 19.00).
After last week’s disappointing draw against Tarxien Rainbows, title-chasers Gżira head into today’s match wary that they cannot afford to drop more points if they are to stay in contention in this year’s title race.
Last week’s 1-1 draw against Tarxien saw Gżira slip to second place on 32 points, two adrift of leaders Hibs and one ahead of third place Valletta.
Ħamrun are fourth, a further five points behind, and Abdilla is wary of the threat posed by the Spartans who had held the Maroons to a goalless draw in the first round.
“This is a very important match that comes at a very critical time in the title race,” Abdilla said.
“Ħamrun have proven this year that they are a very competitive team. They are not an easy team to face as they are tactically very organized and are passing through a very good spell of results so we need to be at our best.
“Our draw against Tarxien Rainbows was a blow for us as we lost two precious points. But all our focus is on our match against Ħamrun and the players are determined to go out and make up for that slip up with a convincing performance that will hopefully yield us all the three points.
“I expect a very balanced match but I’m confident that the players will deliver the right result.”
The Maroons are expected to have the same squad of players that faced Tarxien last week. The Maroons have agreed personal terms with Myles Beerman but have yet to strike an accord with his club Rangers.
On his part, Giovanni Tedesco, the Ħamrun coach, said that he is proud to see his team being involved in top of the table matches and has vowed to provide a stern challenge for Gżira.
“To see my team so high in the standings is of great pride for me and all the praise should go to the players for their hard work and commitment,” Tedesco said.
“Being in a top four position in the standings was not easy feat to achieve but I think it’s even more hard to stay in that position. But if we want to develop into one of the top teams on the island we need to be able to sustain this kind of pressure.
“I am very pleased with the effort put in by my players in training this week and all I can promise to our fans is that we will go out to try and honour our club’s shirt but giving everything we have against Gżira.”
Tedesco is boosted by the return from suspension of Karl Micallef who sat out of the 1-1 draw against Floriana. The Ħamrun coach can also bank on new signing Andre Scicluna who joined the Reds from Tarxien Rainbows earlier this week.
First round result: Gżira United vs Ħamrun Spartans 0-0.
PLAYING ON FRIDAY
NATIONAL STADIUM: 7pm Ħamrun Spartans vs Gżira United.
TEDESCO STADIUM: 6pm Birkirkara vs Pieta Hotspurs; 8.15pm Sliema vs Floriana.
HIBS STADIUM: 2pm Mosta vs Senglea; Tarxien Rainbows vs St Andrews.
NATIONAL STADIUM: 2pm Qormi vs Balzan; 4pm Hibernians vs Valletta.
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