Preview - Day 30 Valletta vs Bkara Published on: 15-04-2017

Valletta and Birkirkara cannot afford any slip-ups when they go head to head in this evening’s Premier
League clash at the National Stadium (kick-off 6pm).
Last week’s unexpected 1-1 draw against Gżira United left Valletta’s title ambitions hanging by a thread as the champions are trailing current leaders Hibernians by four points with only four matches to go.
If beaten today Valletta would also put their participation in UEFA club competitions in summer under threat as only a point would separate them from the fourth-placed Stripes who are also facing the prospect of missing out on European football next season.
Valletta skipper Jonathan Caruana admitted that last week’s poor result against Gżira left his team in a difficult situation but is still not ready to concede defeat in this year’s title race.
“The draw against Gżira was a hard pill to swallow,” Caruana told Times of Malta. “After the very positive showings against Floriana and Hibernians, nobody thought we could slip up against Gżira but unfortunately we failed to perform on the day.
“But that is in the past now and all focus is on our match against Birkirkara. “We may be four points adrift
of Hibs, but until there is hope we will continue to believe and fight for the top position.”
Valletta will again be without defender Steve Borg who in midweek failed to have his fourmatch suspension reduced by the MFA Appeals Board.
Italian midfielder Claudio Pani is also sidelined with a one-match ban and is likely to be replaced by Umeh Calistus who returns from suspension.
Caruana is not underestimating the threat posed by a Birkirkara side buoyed by an impressive streak of five wins from their last six matches. The run has seen them reviving their hopes of a top-three finish.
“Birkirkara are in rude health at the moment,” Caruana admitted. “ Their confidence will be sky
high but we prefer to focus on ourselves and make sure that we are ready.
“The players looked very motivated during training this week and there is great hunger among us to show that we can still have a say in the championship.
“In the last few weeks we have always performed in big matches and hopefully we can continue
that against Birkirkara.”
The Stripes come into the match in high spirits after last week’s impressive showing in the 3-1 defeat of Balzan.
Skipper Gareth Sciberras said that while the performance and result against Balzan had increased the belief among the players he warned that they had to keep winning matches if they are to stay in the hunt for a place in Europe.
“Birkirkara have only one way about it if they are to qualify for Europe – win all our remaining matches,” Sciberras said.
“Up next is a very difficult test against Valletta who are also desperate for points to keep alive their title hopes.
“But we also have our objectives to reach and failure to take the three points would all but kill off our ambitions.”
Birkirkara coach Nikola Jaros has no selection worries and has a full squad to choose from. Sciberras is playing his final matches for the Stripes this year before hanging up his boots at the end of the season.
The 34-year-old said that he is determined to help the Stripes keep their presence in UEFA club competitions before he ends his playing career.

“If I succeed in helping Birkirkara qualify for Europe that would be the cherry on the cake of what has been a great spell with this club,” Sciberras said. “Surely this is a great incentive for me to double my efforts and
help the club finish higher in the league standings.” 

Results so far: Valletta vs Bkar 1-1, 1-0

Source - Times of Malta