Undefeated midway through November, title holders Valletta FC have since lost twice to allow Hibernians FC to go top of the Maltese Premier League ahead of their meeting on Saturday.
Hibernians have been beaten on four occasions already this term, but they are two points clear of Valletta ahead of their trip to the National Stadium. Hibernians' success has been founded on a cautious approach and the collective strength created by coach Michael Woods. Hibernians have also been bolstered this term by the return of midfielder Zoran Levnaić following a loan spell in Kuwait.
"This fixture has developed into an eagerly-anticipated encounter," said Hibernians and Malta midfielder Clayton Failla. "It is something the fans always look for. I am very positive about our chances of landing the title this season. Our strength has always been the collective will of the squad and our success has always been based on teamwork. I am confident a win for us on Saturday will catapult our title chances sky-high!"
To do so, Hibernians must overcome a Valletta side now coached by Mark Miller, the man who masterminded their most recent title success in 2009. Valletta captain Roderick Briffa is in determined mood. "We have got to win at all costs on Saturday," he said. "We just cannot afford to lose any more points at this stage. I am sure Valletta will be back with a bang."
Though lacking form as a team recently, Valletta have one particular player who has continued to fire on all cylinders – top-flight leading scorer with 11 goals, Michael Mifsud. "Saturday is a crucial fixture for Valletta, but I am convinced we will get the three points," said Mifsud. "Valletta are the team everyone wants to beat and knock off the top of the table.
"It is true that we dropped significant points against lower-ranked sides like Rabat Ajax FC and Melita FC, but these matches are sometimes difficult due to defensive tactics applied from the first whistle to the last."
Hibernians, though, have their own on-song marksman in Andrew Cohen, who has five top-flight goals to his name this term. "Despite losing four times this season, we have registered the most wins (ten) and scored the most goals (33) in the Premier League," said the 31-year-old. "The new players took a while to adapt to our game but I do think we can win on Saturday and go on to claim the title. There is still a long way to go."
© 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.