Michael Ohana will try and help Hapoel Beersheba claim its first Premier League win of the season when it hosts Hapoel Ashkelon Friday..
(photo credit: DANNY MAROM)
Hapoel Beersheba looks to kick-start its Premier League campaign when it hosts Hapoel Ashkelon at Turner Stadium on Saturday night.
The two-time reigning champion has picked up just a single point from its first two games, drawing 1-1 with Netanya in its opener before losing 3-1 at Maccabi Haifa. The two league matches sandwiched Beersheba’s heartbreaking exit at the hands of Maribor in the Champions League playoffs.
After a disappointing August, Beersheba has had plenty of time to regroup during the two-week international break as it aims to start gathering momentum in September by stringing together a winning streak in Israel and Europe.
Beersheba welcomes Lugano of Switzerland to Turner Stadium in its Europa League groupstage opener next Thursday and then visits Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Haifa in league action before ending September with another continental clash in the Czech Republic against Viktoria Plzen.
“It is far from ideal to open the season with one point from a possible six, but we are only two matches into the campaign and this changes nothing,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We have still got high expectations from this season.”
Beersheba signed striker Guy Melamed from Maccabi Petah Tikva earlier this week ahead of the close of the summer transfer window, but he isn’t expected to play for another month after undergoing hernia surgery.
Former Barcelona midfielder Isaac Cuenca is finally set to make his first start for the team, with injuries so far limiting him to an eight-minute appearance as a substitute in the Champions League playoffs against Maribor.
One of the busiest teams during the past week was Beersheba’s main challenger in the past two seasons, Maccabi Tel Aviv. After bringing Eliran Atar back from Maccabi Haifa last week, the yellow-and-blue added two new foreign players ahead of the deadline, signing French-born defender Jean-Sylvain Babin and Spanish midfielder Jose Rodriguez Martinez.
Babin, 30, joined on a oneyear loan deal with an option for another season from Spanish club Sporting de Gijon, while the 22-year-old Rodriguez, who has one appearance to his name at Real Madrid, joined on a season-long loan deal from German outfit Mainz 05.
“I had other offers to go on loan from Mainz who wouldn’t have loaned me out to every club, but after speaking with Jordi [Cruyff] I chose to join Maccabi Tel Aviv,” said Rodriguez.
After losing 3-0 to Beitar Jerusalem to start the season, Maccabi beat Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-1 and will try and make it two straight wins when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday. Maccabi opens its Europa League group stage campaign in the Czech Republic on Thursday when it visits Slavia Prague.
Sakhnin is one of three teams with a perfect record after two matches, together with Beitar and Hapoel Haifa.
Hapoel Haifa welcomes Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, while Beitar visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday. Also Saturday, Ashdod SC faces Kiryat Shmona.