Tight league finale will befit national team, says Farrugia
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Tight league finale will befit national team, says Farrugia

Valletta striker Mario Fontanella (left) shoots at goal against Tarxien Rainbows. Photo: Wally Galea

Valletta striker Mario Fontanella (left) shoots at goal against Tarxien Rainbows. Photo: Wally Galea

The 2018-19 BOV Premier League is set for an exciting finale this weekend when everything is still to play for as the title race, the battle for fourth spot and the relegation tussle will all be decided on Match Day 26.

Hibernians responded in style to Valletta’s 1-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows as two goals late in the first half earned them a 2-0 win over Senglea Athletic on Monday that moved them just two points adrift of the league leaders.

Now all will be settled on Saturday when Valletta take on fourth-placed Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium, at 4pm, while concurrently the Paolites host Balzan at the Hibs Stadium.

It will be far from a plainsailing assignment for the two title rivals as their opponents are engulfed in the race for fourth place, which could yield a Europa League berth, along with Sliema Wanderers who face Pietà Hotspurs on Saturday at the Centenary Stadium, with kick-off set also at 4pm.

The relegation issue will be decided a day before with all three relegation candidates in action at 8pm.

Second-from-bottom Qormi face Mosta at the National Stadium, while St Andrews, who are third-from-bottom, take on Gżira United at the Centenary Stadium.

Senglea Athletic, who are two points ahead of the Saints, face Birkirkara at the Tedesco Stadium.

Malta coach Ray Farrugia said that he is looking forward to the final day of a very exciting league season.

“This year’s championship was very interesting and a great advert for Maltese football,” Farrugia told the Times of Malta.

“Having so many issues still open is very healthy for the development of our national team players who in a few weeks’ time will be involved in two difficult Euro 2020 qualifiers.

“When you are involved in so many highly-competitive matches it improves the intensity of the players and hopefully it will turn out to be a great platform for the national team’s preparations for our matches against Sweden and Romania.”

The Malta coach said it was difficult to say who will lift the championship trophy between Valletta and Hibernians on Saturday.

“Valletta are in a strong position as they have a two-point advantage and a group of players who have great experience in title run-ins. But on the other hand, Hibernians also boast of a great side that have exceeded expectations if I am sincere. They built the team from scratch this year and have a great nucleus of Maltese players who have gelled very well with their overseas team-mates.

“They both have a tough final assignment as Ħamrun Spartans and Balzan have been showing a lot of promise so it will come down to who is capable of surviving with the pressure that such decisive matches bring about.”

The Malta coach had special words of praise for Mario Muscat and his Qormi players who in the last few weeks have achieved some impressive wins against the likes of Hibernians and Birkirkara that kept the Yellow-Blacks with a good chance of avoiding the drop.

“It’s quiet remarkable what Mario Muscat and his players have done in the second part of the season,” Farrugia said.

“At one point, Qormi looked resigned for relegation but when Mario took charge he managed to turn the club’s fortunes and if they can complete the job on the final day they would have completed a remarkable achievement.

“But, one cannot discard St Andrews’ chances. Their win over Floriana was quite remarkable and it was achieved with a gutsy showing from all their players. They will head to their final match with their morale sky-high.

“One must also mention Senglea Athletic. The performances they put in since January have been remarkable and surely they deserve to stay in the Premier League.

“I’m confident they will be in the top-flight next season.”

FINAL PROGRAMME

FRIDAY

Hibs Stadium: 8pm St Andrews vs Gżira United.

National Stadium: 6pm Tarxien vs Floriana; 8pm Qormi vs Mosta.

Tedesco Stadium: 8pm Birkirkara vs Senglea Athletic.

SATURDAY

Centenary Stadium: 4pm Sliema Wanderers vs Pietà Hotspurs.

Hibs Stadium: 4pm Hibernians vs Balzan.

National Stadium: 4pm Ħamrun Spartans vs Valletta.

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