Preview - Day 11 Valletta vs Hamrun S Published on: 04-11-2016
The rivalry that lit up Maltese football in the eighties and early nineties will be rekindled this afternoon as Valletta lock horns with Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium.
It’s a measure of the Spartans’ promising start to their first topflight campaign after a lapse of three years that they are widely fancied to ruffle Valletta’s feathers despite the latter’s status as defending champions.
Four points separate the two teams in the erstwhile balanced championship with the Spartans trimming the gap on the Whites after edging Pembroke Athleta 2-1 while Valletta, now fourth, failed to break down St Andrews’ resistance in a goalless stalemate.
Paul Zammit is hoping that the return of one of the fiercest rivalries not only translates itself into a hardfought encounter but also helps to raise the image of the local game which, in the Valletta coach’s
words, is crying out for a boost.
“Ħamrun Spartans went through some tough times as they had to rebuild their squad to regain their top-division status,” Zammit told Times of Malta.
“They are one of the clubs that belong to the Premier League. It’s important for Maltese football that
Ħamrun are in the top tier because they have a lot of fans who genuinely love their team and are attached to the club.
“Valletta vs Ħamrun is one of the classic fixtures that can enhance the profile of Maltese football and we need more games that generate this kind of interest.
“Let’s be honest, Maltese football is going through a turbulent period as there have been some
unpleasant situations both at club and national team level. “I hope that matches like this give our game a much-needed boost.
“I’m very disappointed and hurt with various aspects of our football and we need to act in a concrete
manner to address the inherent flaws.”
His concerns about the state of
Maltese football aside, Zammit must also be worried about his team’s progress this season as the
champions have stuttered through the first round, dropping 12 points to slip five adrift of leaders
“Our performance graph has been a roller-coaster affair,” Zammit said.
“We had some situations that were not ideal as injuries and suspensions had an effect on our
“Our showings have improved in the last games. In our last outing (vs St Andrew’s), we were disappointed
with the result, not the performance.
“But there is no denying that, for a team that aspires to challenge at the top, you need to build on the
good things you had done in the past.
“This game is an opportunity for us to keep working. “My mission is to give an identity to the team. “This goes beyond the pedigree of the opposition but we’re aware that we’re facing a club with a glorious
history who have shown that, with collective spirit and enthusiasm, they can make it hard for any team in the Premier League.”
Goalkeeper Henry Bonello is out as he has yet to complete a three-match ban but otherwise Zammit has no selection issues.
For his part, Steve D’Amato, the Ħamrun Spartans coach, must cope without goalkeeper David
Cassar who has not recovered from a groin injury while midfielder Luke Sciberras is doubtful with hamstring trouble.
D’Amato knows that his side’s encouraging start to the season has raised the fans’ expectations ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Valletta but he is unfazed by the hype.
“After a three-year absence from the Premier League, our first match against Valletta takes on added importance but this is also because of the proximity of the two teams in the standings,” D’Amato said.
“In the latter years of their previous spell in the top flight, Ħamrun struggled to compete with the big teams but we have made a good start this season and this has inevitably heightened expectations
among our fans.”
Valletta’s toils to embark on a winning run have not diminished D’Amato’s respect for his impending
“We are playing against the champions,” D’Amato said. “They may not have started the season as strongly as they had hoped but Valletta have a strong team. They have top-quality players in every department.”
Ħamrun Spartans’ rebuilding job after their relegation to the second division in 2013-14 means that most of the players in their current squad have never played against Valletta but D’Amato is confident that his charges will not be intimidated by the occasion.
“If anything, this fixture should stimulate our players rather than put added pressure,” D’Amato said.
“Ħamrun have been involved in similar matches as, in the second division, we had derby games against Marsa and, in the first division last season, we played some crucial games against the likes ofGżira United and Senglea Athletic.
Source - Times of Malta
Source - Times of Malta