Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Buzaglo (left) will be looking to build on his excellent start to the season, which includes three goals and four assists, when his team visits Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium..
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
After making a promising start to the campaign, Hapoel Beersheeba looks to climb to the top of the Premier League standings on Saturday when its visits Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
Beersheba is one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the league and a victory at Bloomfield will see it move up to first place for at least 48 hours, with league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona not hosting second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv until Monday night.
After ending last season as runner-up, its highest finish since claiming the championship 38 years ago, Beersheba pulled no stops in the summer to ensure it could challenge for the title until the final whistle of the campaign.
Beersheba held on to the core of last season’s squad, and while its pursuit of Yossi Benayoun may have failed after he chose to join Maccabi Haifa, the southerners brought Maor Melikson and Shlomi Arbeitman back from Europe, with Nigerian midfielder John Ogu and Romanian Ovidiu Hoban also joining.
Beersheba claimed its first win over Hapoel at Bloomfield since 1994 last season and will be expecting another tough test against the hosts and their star midfielder Gili Vermut on Saturday.
Vermut shined in the Israel national team’s 3-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Euro 2016 qualification at the start of the week, although he has so far struggled to display the same form alongside his far less talented teammates in Tel Aviv.
Roei Gordana will face Tel Aviv for the first time since leaving the club in the summer for Beersheba.
“There are a lot of emotions because I enjoyed a good period at Hapoel Tel Aviv,” said Gordana. “But it is over now and I have a new home.
I’m not thinking about proving anybody wrong. I just want to do my job for my new team.
“Beersheba is aiming for the top and to build on what it began last season,” Gordana added. “However, it is still too early to be talking about winning the championship.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv will enter the match in an upbeat mood after the Israel Football Association’s High Court ordered to delay the disciplinary action handed down to both Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv following the abandonment of the derby earlier this month.
The disciplinary court deducted two points from the teams last week, while also ruling that the result of the match will be a 0-0 draw from which neither club will receive a point and that the stands from which the fans burst onto the pitch will be closed for four matches.
However, after hearing the clubs’ arguments in Tuesday’s appeal, the three-man High Court panel decided to suspend the sentence until it makes its final decision on the matter next Tuesday.
Maccabi Haifa aims to win two consecutive matches for the first time this season on Saturday when it visits Ashdod SC.
Haifa snapped a four match losing streak with a nervy 1-0 victory over Hapoel Acre in its most recent encounter and made last week the first of what are set to be several changes to the squad over the next couple of months by releasing Cameroonian striker Mohammadou Idrissou.
“We won our last game but we didn’t play well,” said Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic, who denied the rumors linking him with the vacant coaching position at the Serbian national team. “We have started to work well in training and this is a very important match for us. I hope we can take one step up.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva, Hapoel Ra’anana visits Maccabi Netanya and Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes Hapoel Acre.
Bnei Sakhnin is scheduled to host Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday, although it remains to be seen where the match will take place.
The game between the two clubs is a volatile showdown at the best of times, not to mention in the current climate. As a result, police decided on Thursday that the encounter can’t be held at Sakhnin’s Doha Stadium and it will have to find another ground at which to host the match.