BOV Premier League kicks off: Valletta FC again the team to beat

Friday, August 17, 2012, 12:55

by Joshua Cacciattolo

The BOV Premier League 2012/13 kicks-off on this Saturday with the first two matches at the National Stadium. This will be the second time that twelve teams are taking part in the top division after a new format was adopted for domestic competitions last season.

Newly promoted Rabat Ajax take on Qormi in the first game while Sliema Wanderers and arch rivals Floriana cross swords in the other match as they hope to start the season on a positive note following many changes during the closed season.

From what has been concluded during the summer transfer market so far, I firmly believe that it will not just be Valletta and Hibernians who this year will battle it out for the title. In fact, I consider Birkirkra and Mosta to be well equipped to offer a very strong challenge. Hamrun Spartans and Sliema Wanderers have also strengthened their ranks considerably and should offer strong opposition to the top teams on their day. We still have to wait and see who has managed to sign the best players available on the market.

The campaign starts on Saturday with the Qormi-Rabat Ajax. and Floriana-Sliema clashes. On Sunday Hamrun Spartans then take on last season’s surprise package Balzan Youths while Valletta face Tarxien Rainbows. The first programme comes to an end on Monday with the so-called top clash between Hibernians and Mosta and Birkirkara against Melita.

Qormi and Rabat Ajax will start the ball rolling on Saturday at 18.30.

The Yellow Blacks are now in the third year under the charge of coach Stephen Azzopardi and will start as slight favourites against the Magpies, who return after 11 years absent from the Premier League.

The team has lost the services of their two main players last season, Jorginho and Joseph Farrugia who left for new pastures, and it is yet to be seen whether their substitutes will prove to be as effective as them. Their main signings were Leighton Grech, and veteran Geatan Spiteri.

On their part, Rabat Ajax have been strengthened with the signing of Clive Brincat and added Ivan Carapic, German Heiner Backhaus, Spanish midfielder Manuel Moral Fuster and Lithuanian striker Nerijus Astrauskas. No one expects the Magpies to be among the first six, but they will certainly be no pushovers.

The second match on Saturday afternoon between Floriana and arch rivals Sliema Wanderers at 20.30, should be an interesting one.

Here one will be able to assess whether the changes during the close season were worth it. Sliema Wanderers appointed an Italian coach Alfonso Greco after the resignation of Clive Mizzi and also added veteran Ivan Woods, David Fenech, Luca Martinelli and former Mqabba defender Bransilov Timotic (doping isue pending). Mucchariadi, El Ghouti and Ortega are the others foreigners for the Blues. Youngsters John Mintoff and Miguel Ciantar returned from loan spells.

Floriana made several changes during the close season after the departure of president Johan Said. Players also who left the Greens were Mano Micallef, Ivan Woods, John Mintooff, Maunel Bartolo and last season’s foreigners. Floriana are now engaged in a deal with new British investors as the club signed Valdo Alhinho, Carl  Tremarco and Aman Verma. The club are also waiting for the international clearance of Sunday Wasiu.

The BOV Premier League continues on Sunday as last season surprise package Balzan Youths take on Hamrun Spartans and champions Valletta face Tarxien Rainbows at the National Stadium ironically was also last season first day fixtures.

Valletta remain the team to beat. They are once again my great favourites to win a third consecutive title. During the close season Mark Miller took in charge of Jesmond Zerafa. They have certainly made the most notable signing among local players – Shaun Bajada and Manuel Bartolo among the new foreigners Gabriel Da Silva, Leandro Da Silva Almeida and Ricardo Filho.

Tarxien Rainbows are eager to avoid another disappointing campaign and signed two Brazilians and Andre Grabowski from Floriana. The Rainbows cannot be taken lightly considering their performances over the previous two seasons and Valletta will do well to be on the alert to avoid any unpleasant surprise at the start of competition.

The citizens could not have had a better start to the season. They have already won the BoV Super Cup.

On Sunday’s first match Balzan take on Hamrun Spartans – kick off at 18.30.

Both seem to be ambitious teams. Hamrun Spartans has brought fresh enthusiasm in the side thanks to Bulgarians investitures, among them Terence Scerri, Terence Vella and Anthony Curmi from the local scene. They have also signed 5 Bulgarians as part of the foreign deal.

Their opponents, Balzan Youths, are also looking forward towards another healthy season among the elite. Coach Ivan Zammit, the former Valletta, Birkirkara and Malta international, has strengthened the side with the arrival of an Stefan Giglio, Renato Conceicao and Matthew Mendy. They have retained Brazilian striker Pedrinho and secured the services of five former Valletta players.

Match day one continues on Monday at the Hibernians Stadium, as highly ambitious, Mosta, will be looking forward to leave an impact in their encounter against last season runners up Hibernians, kick off 18.30.

The Blues also started positively by winning their own Mosta tournament and coach Steve D’Amato is now banking on teh acquisition of twelve new players;  Steve Bezzina, Manolito Micallef, Luke Dimech , Justin Haber, Daniel Bogdanovic , Ferdinando Apap, Ryan Grech, Danial Mitev, Carlos Emanuel Campagnoli, David Maja Dos Santos, Emmanuel Okafor Ezeth and Adrian Farrugia.

Hibernians are hoping that the new foreigners will fit in quickly in their new surroundings.

The side has lost the services of players like Edison Dos Santos and Clayton Fallia, the latter tested positive for a KMS random doping test. In return, they have secured the services of John Nwoba, Anderson Mendes Ribiero and Zoran Levniac.

Matchday one ends on Monday night as Birkirkara take on newly promoted Melita FC also at the Hibernians Stadium, kick off 20.30.

The Stripes have also been active on the transfer market. They engaged Jhonnattan, Joselito and Spanish defender Mendoza as new foreigner alongside Vakanic and Shola Haruna. From the local scene they signed young defender Zach Muscat who joined from Pieta Hotspurs.

Melita Fc under the guidance of Martin Gregory and his assistant Carmel Busutill will be no pushovers and they have signed Rudhi Alinho from Gzira United and retained Jovan Vukanac and Sierre Camacho together with an array of fast young, dedicated and pay free players.

Fixtures

Sat-18-Aug 18:30 National Stadium Rabat Ajax vs Qormi

Sat-18-Aug 20:30 National Stadium Sliema Wanderers vs Floriana

Sun-19-Aug 18:30 National Stadium Hamrun Spartans vs Balzan

Sun-19-Aug 20:30 National Stadium Valletta vs Tarxien Rainbows

Mon-20-Aug 18:30 Hibernians Stadium Hibernians vs Mosta

Mon-20-Aug 20:30 Hibernians Stadium Birkirkara vs Melita





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