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Neptunes vs Sliema - the weekend highlight

The top teams in the 7-Up Summer waterpolo league have generally used their opening six matches from the preliminary phase of the competition as an ideal launchpad to introduce their young players and give them a chance to nurture experience.

However, no coach of the strongest four sides will take any undue risks from now on as the teams that will be playing in the Division One championship in the next phase will meet each other over the coming three weeks.

The run-up before the split is effected between the top four and the other six which will be playing in Division Two, takes off this weekend with a bang.

Neptunes Vodafone, the 2002 winter champions, will be clashing against perennial rivals Sliema Burger King in the third game of tomorrow's four-match programme.

Marsascala and Go Mobile Sirens will round up the weekend programme in the last match on the card.

In today's only league match, Ta' Xbiex have a good chance to bounce back from a 16-1 beating by Neptunes in the previous game. Peter Paolella's men face Otters who are still without a point after six outings.

San Giljan should chalk up their second win of the tournament when facing Valletta while Marsaxlokk will have to be wary of the Exiles threat in tomorrow's opening match.

After leading his Catania side to promotion to the Italian top flight, coach Sergio Afric is back at the helm of Sliema who are expected to have Maltese/Australian Nicky Falzon back in their ranks.

However, Afric could not really gauge the champions' current potential as last Sunday he could only see the team strolling past Marsaxlokk unchallenged in an easy 16-2 win.

Neptunes, without a national championship title for the past nine years now, looked the more composed side until this stage, giving their opponents little chance where to manoeuvre on their way to scoring 105 goals in their opening six matches.

Pierre Borg's Marsascala have produced some spirited performances so far. However, Bruno Cofino's Sirens seem to carry heavier guns for the southerners, the underdogs for the summer league.

Today: 4 p.m. Ta' Xbiex vs Otters.

Tomorrow: 3 p.m. Exiles vs Marsaxlokk; 4 p.m. Valletta vs San Giljan; 5 p.m. Neptunes vs Sliema; 6 p.m. Marsascala vs Sirens.

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