Preview - Day 15 Valletta vs Balzan Published on: 10-12-2016

Valletta vs Balzan

The nascent title race will come under the spotlight tomorrow when champions Valletta face Balzan in a
match neither team can afford to lose.
Four points off the top, Valletta know that failure to collect maximum points would see them concede further ground to the pace-setters while Balzan need to bite back after being dislodged from top spot following a 3-1 loss to floriana.
Although it’s early to talk of do-ordie clashes, Paul Zammit recognises the importance of the game tomorrow
at the National stadium (kickoff: 16.00) with the City coach eager to gauge his team’s progress vis-avis
the first round.
“top-of-the-table clashes carry a certain weight,” Zammit said. “However, the classification is not my main concern at the moment as i’m more interested in seeing whether we’ve made progress from the first round. and this doesn’t apply only to the Balzan game.
“in the corresponding first round fixture, our performance in the first half was among the best we’ve had this season but the second half was a completely different page and we were almost punished by Balzan.”
Tomorrow’s encounter signals the start of a potentially defining two-week period for Valletta with today week’s derby against floriana sandwiched between a FA trophy third-round tie against san Ġwann on Wednesday and the super Cup against sliema on Dec. 21.
Zammit admitted that the next four games could make or break Valletta’s season.
“i’m not looking only at this weekend but of course we are focused on the Balzan match. I’ve given my
players a clear picture of the importance of our five fixtures in December,” Zammit said.
“these five matches, starting with last week’s game against Pembroke athleta (3-0), have the potential to
give a different dimension to our season.
“After our game against Balzan, we meet san Ġwann in the FA trophy followed by the derby against
Floriana and the super Cup match against Sliema.
“We have all these important games in a short period of time. So we need to prepare for this demanding
schedule not only tactically and technically but also physically and psychologically.”
City are now only two points behind Balzan after the latter dropped to second place following their setback to floriana.
Although Balzan have betrayed signs of vulnerability in recent weeks, Zammit dismissed suggestions
that the Reds are in decline. “Balzan have been building their squad and improving their overall set-up year after year,” Zammit said.
“They’ve had a very good season so far and, in my eyes, they haven’t suffered a loss of form just because
they have slipped to second.
“Balzan still occupy one of the leading positions in the table.” Defender steve Borg and Portuguese
midfielder Valdo alhinho are ranked doubtful but otherwise Zammit has no selection problems.
Luke montebello is expected to be named in the City squad after the towering striker ended his loan spell
with Pembroke athleta.
Balzan coach Oliver Spiteri doesn’t have a full squad at his disposal as Brazilian Alan Da Silva souza starts a two-match ban following his sending-off in the Floriana defeat. Captain Dylan Grima has been suspended for one game for four yellow cards.
Justin Grioli is still out, midfielder Paul fenech has resumed training after hernia surgery and Steve Bezzina remains doubtful.
On the plus side, Ryan Fenech’s lively performance as a secondhalf substitute against Floriana suggests that the gifted midfielder is getting back to full fitness after being ravaged by injuries for the past 15 months.
“This has not been an easy week for us but we need to react,” Fenech, formerly of Valletta, said. “When it has mattered most this season, we haven’t really delivered as last weekend we missed another opportunity to increase our lead over teams like Floriana and Birkirkara, but I have no doubt about the quality in our team.
“We must show character. The match against Valletta will not be easy but we can definitely compete with them. “We have three important games coming up where we need to prove that Balzan will be challenging
for the honours.”
Fenech is hoping to step up his comeback bid tomorrow. “I’ve been struggling with injuries for the past year and three months,” Fenech said. “After a series of setbacks, my rehabilitation has gone well in recent months and i’m optimistic that my injury woes are now behind me.
“I hope to start the next game but more importantly, i’m looking forward to helping my team in what will surely be a tough test.” 

First round result: Balzan vs

Source - Times of Malta