Watch: No margin for error for City, Stripes

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

Title contenders Valletta and Birkirkara have little margin for error when they go head-to-head in a titanic tussle at the National Stadium tomorrow (kick-off: 4pm).

The Citizens are currently just one point adrift of league pacesetters Balzan, but by the time they kick off their match against Birkirkara they may well find themselves a further three points adrift as the leaders face bottom side Lija Athletic this afternoon, meaning that nothing less than a win could keep them in the race for the title.

Birkirkara, on their part, have been on the charge in the last two months as nine successive league victories have catapulted them to third place in the standings, five points adrift of leaders Balzan.

The Stripes may still have some work to do to put themselves in the hunt for the league title but failure to take maximum spoils against Valletta would severely hamper their chances of a top-three finish that would guarantee them Europa League football next summer.

Danilo Doncic, the Valletta coach, has made no secret of the significance the match carries for his team’s title aspirations.

“This is a very important match for both teams,” Doncic, who has a full squad available, told a news conference yesterday.

“For us winning the match is crucial to keep our pursuit of top spot. We know that we are facing a Birkirkara side who are passing through a very good run of form and they have some excellent players.

“But we too have a lot of quality in our ranks and this is a good opportunity to put down a marker on our title aspirations with a strong performance and the three points.”

On his part, Valletta skipper Ryan Camilleri said that a win over Birkirkara would be a huge shot in the arm for the Citizens in their chase for the league championship.

“With only seven matches left till the end of the season, all matches carry huge importance and we are going out for the three points against Birkirkara,” the Malta defender said.

“However, I don’t think that this match will prove decisive in terms of who will win the title as there is still a lot football to be played and many direct confrontations. But no doubt, a win on Sunday would be a great injection of confidence.”

Paul Zammit, the Birkirkara coach, said that it was already a remarkable achievement for the club to be fighting for a top-three position given the club’s disappointing start to the season.

“If you look at how are season started I think it’s already a huge achievement to be involved in such top clash in this final part of the season,” Zammit said.

“We experienced a very difficult start to the season but since then the players have shown a lot of commitment and work ethic and their hard work was rewarded with a strong run of results that has put us in contention for a top position.

“But all this effort may well prove futile if we don’t perform in these last seven matches of the season.

“We are aware that we are facing arguably the strongest squad in the Premier League but we too have our qualities and we need to believe in ourselves and try and get the right result to maintain our march.”

Birkirkara have almost a full squad available with the exception of midfielder Matthew Guillaumier who is recovering from injury.

First round result: Valletta vs Birkirkara 3-0.

Valletta's Michael Mifsud (right) is challenged by Cain Attard, of Birkirkara.Valletta's Michael Mifsud (right) is challenged by Cain Attard, of Birkirkara.

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