Maccabi Tel Aviv is hoping to build on Sunday’s celebrations in the win against Maccabi Netanya when it begins a three-match stretch over eight days versus Maccabi Haifa on Sunday..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Israel’s Premier League clubs will enjoy a much-welcomed break for Rosh Hashana, but they will already be back in action over the weekend.
For Maccabi Tel Aviv, it will mark the start of an important three-match stretch over eight days. Maccabi moved within a single point of the league summit on Monday night after twice coming back from behind to defeat Maccabi Netanya 3-2 for its third straight victory.
Stunning strikes by Omer Atzili and Nick Blackman ensured the yellow-and-blue bounced back from its 1-0 loss at Slavia Prague in its Europa League group stage opener four days earlier.
Maccabi faces an intriguing showdown with rival Maccabi Haifa in its next match on Sunday before hosting Spanish side Villarreal in its second Europa group game next Thursday. The yellow-and-blue will then be back in action just three days later when it visits Hapoel Ashkelon in league action.
That match will be followed by a twoweek international break, but Maccabi will not be thinking that far ahead, knowing how significant the upcoming three contests could be.
Maccabi received bad news on Tuesday when an MRI revealed that midfielder Dor Micha is suffering from a muscle tear in his thigh and will be out for the next six weeks, leaving coach Jordi Cruyff with one less player to use in his rotation.
“We have been doing this for six seasons and that’s not something that will change,” Cruyff said of the expanded rotation he has been using so far this season.
“I don’t think that the game against Haifa will be our biggest test up until now, but it’s certainly an important match.
There will be plenty of more important games. I will have to see how best to use our squad. Two goals against Netanya were scored by players who didn’t start this past Thursday and I’m expecting a tough game. I’ve seen their previous matches and they are more comfortable playing against opponents that play open football and we play like that, so the game will certainly be very interesting.”
Maccabi currently sits one point back of leaders Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa, with two-time defending champion Hapoel Beersheba three points off the top.
After picking up just a single point from its first two league matches and being knocked out in the Champions League playoffs, Beersheba made it three wins from three matches over all competitions in the month of September by beating Bnei Yehuda 1-0 on Saturday. Beersheba visits Hapoel Haifa this coming Saturday before going to the Czech Republic to play Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League on Thursday. Beersheba began the group stage with a 2-1 win over Lugano of Switzerland.
Hapoel Haifa opened its league campaign with three consecutive victories before drawing 3-3 against Beitar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Saturday thanks to Eden Ben-Basat’s 94th-minute equalizer. Ben-Basat finished with a hattrick and leads the league with five goals from four matches.
Beitar doesn’t play again until next Monday when it welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Beitar will have to manage without German left-back Marcel Heister in its next five matches after he was punished by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Tuesday. Heister was handed a five-match suspension after cursing the referee and spitting towards his room at the end of the draw with Hapoel Haifa.
This upcoming weekend will also see two coaches make their debuts with their new teams. Guy Levy and Hapoel Ra’anana host Ashkelon on Saturday while Sharon Mimer and Maccabi Petah Tikva play Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.