After a frustrating regular season, Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Melikson will aim to kick-start his campaign when his team’s gets the championship playoffs underway on Saturday against Maccabi Petah Tikva..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba’s coach and players have downplayed their team’s chances of winning the Premier League title for much of the season.
However, the Southerners enter the championship playoffs as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s main rival for the title and can close within two points of first place with a win over Maccabi Petah Tikva at Vasermil Stadium on Saturday.
Saturday will mark the beginning of the championship and relegation playoffs, with the top six sides to face each other twice more for the title, while the bottom eight teams will play one another once more to decide the battle against relegation.
Despite Beersheba’s disappointing results on the road so far this season, winning just three of 13 matches away from Vasermil, Elisha Levy’s side has remained within striking distance of the summit.
The yellow-and-blue’s relative recent struggles, combined with Beersheba’s superb home record (11 wins in 13 matches), means the title race remains wide open.
Beersheba will have to improve its form away from home to have any chance to claiming its first championship since 1976, but will first need to avoid a slip-up against Petah Tikva to keep the pressure on Maccabi Tel Aviv ahead of its showdown with Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
Beersheba leapfrogged Ironi Kiryat Shmona into second place last weekend, with the latter’s campaign unraveling over recent weeks.
Kiryat Shmona led the standings for a three-month stretch, but has won just one of its last eight games, losing its past three to fall seven points behind first place. The Northerners will not have an easy time returning to winning ways on Saturday when it hosts in-form Beitar Jerusalem, which has won three straight games.
In the relegation playoffs on Saturday, rock-bottom Hapoel Acre (22 points) visits Hapoel Tel Aviv (29), Hapoel Petah Tikva (23) goes to Maccabi Netanya (33), Bnei Sakhnin (30) hosts Hapoel Haifa (26) and Hapoel Ra’anana (34) welcomes Ashdod SC (27).