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Neptunes on verge of title

Neptunes will be all out to beat derby rivals Sliema and seal the national league title today.

Neptunes will be all out to beat derby rivals Sliema and seal the national league title today.

Neptunes Grimaldi are close to becoming Malta waterpolo champions for the sixth time in the last seven years and 24th in the all-time winners’ list.

Victory over rivals Sliema Betsson this evening would guarantee Zoran Maslovar’s team an unassailable seven-point lead over second-placed San Ġiljan Salini Resort with only two matches left for the end of the BOV Premier League campaign.

In June, many were backing San Ġiljan to repeat their feat of 2015 and retain the two major honours in the local game.

The Saints, who boast a balanced and well-equipped squad, did succeed in keeping the BOV KO trophy at their club for another year as last weekend they beat Neptunes 12-10 in a tense final that required extra-time to determine the winners.

However, the championship saw Neptunes performing on a more consistent level, showing great tactical cohesion and true combative qualities despite coach Maslovar having to rely on a restricted squad with very few options available to him, particularly in the tail-end zone of his group of players.

So far, the Balluta Bay Reds are the only team without defeat in the top flight, winning nine matches from 12, including two fine victories over Sliema – 8-3 and 7-3.

Among the three drawn matches Neptunes figured in this summer is also an eight-all draw against the Blues.

That stalemate in the derby came very early in the season when the Reds were not firing on all cylinders as Sliema faded with every match they played after that and eventually slipped out of contention very early in the Championship Pool phase.

Sliema, 31-times Malta champions, will not go down without a fight though and Maslovar will be warning his players to expect a tough test before they can kickstart their celebrations.

A Neptunes’ failure to secure victory this evening would rekindle San Ġiljan’s flailing hopes of landing a second successive double. They currently trail the leaders by four points with two matches left.

The champions play Sliema on Saturday and Neptunes next, tomorrow week. A championship decider, if required, is pencilled for September 10.

Meanwhile, Valletta McDonald’s and Sirens Ritter Sport will bring their 2016 assignments to a close as they play their remaining match from the Relegation Pool in today’s opener at the National Pool.

Valletta, two points behind Sirens in the standings, will top the race for a platonic fourth place if they beat the St Paul’s Bay team for a third time from four champion-ship matches this summer.

Remaining matches
Playing today: 18.15 Valletta vs Sirens. 19.30 Neptunes vs Sliema.
Saturday: 18.15 Relegation decider Exiles vs Marsaxlokk. 19.30 Sliema vs San Ġiljan.
Sept. 8: 18.15 Relegation decider Exiles vs Marsaxlokk. 19.30 San Ġiljan vs Neptunes.

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