Hapoel Beersheba striker Tomas Pekhart (Danny Maron).
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba hopes to once more benefit from home comfort when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva in Premier League action on Saturday. The two-time reigning champion could find itself four points behind first place by the time its match gets under way, with leader Maccabi Tel Aviv welcoming Hapoel Ra’anana fourand- a-half hours earlier.
Beersheba moved back to within a single point of Maccabi, bouncing back from last week’s loss to the yellow-and-blue, with a tense 2-0 victory over Ashdod SC at Turner Stadium on Monday.
The game against Ashdod marked the start of a run of three straight home matches for Beersheba. Barak Bachar’s team is unbeaten at home in league action since its new stadium opened over two years ago and has picked up 24 of a possible 30 points at Turner so far this season.
Beersheba welcomes Beitar Jerusalem, which is in third place two points back of Maccabi, in a crunch showdown in its subsequent match.
Hapoel then visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona before completing the regular season with another home encounter against Bnei Sakhnin.
Beersheba will need to overcome an injury crisis to defeat Petah Tikva, with influential midfielder Maor Melikson the latest player to join the long list after suffering a muscle strain during the win over Ashdod. Melikson is expected to be out for at least two weeks, with striker Ben Sahar also still missing after going down with a muscle injury in the 1-0 defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Beersheba is also still without Miguel Vitor, who has only played in four league matches this season, Mohammad Ghadir, Mihaly Korhut and Elyaniv Barda, who hasn’t played since mid-November after requiring treatment with a defibrillator following his collapse during a training session.
Despite going down to 10-men in the 58th minute, Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Acre 2-0 on Sunday for its eighth win from the past nine matches.
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Haifa visits Sakhnin and Ashdod SC hosts Acre.
Messay Dego will make his debut as Hapoel Ashkelon coach when it goes to Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday, while Hapoel Haifa hosts Maccabi Netanya.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem welcomes Bnei Yehuda in front of empty stands at Teddy Stadium after being punished by the disciplinary court for the unruly behavior of its fans.