Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Spanish midfielder Jose Rodriguez looks to build on his impressive performance in last weekend’s 4-0 win over Hapoel Haifa when the yellow-and-blue visits Ashdod SC on Saturday.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
After an unlikely combination of results saw Maccabi Tel Aviv return to the summit of the Premier League standings last weekend, the yellow-and-blue aims to strengthen its hold on first place when it visits Ashdod SC on Saturday.
Maccabi entered last weekend’s action knowing that only a win by four goals or more against fourth-placed Hapoel Haifa, combined with a draw in the encounter between Hapoel Beersheba and Beitar Jerusalem, but no higher than 2-2, would see it leapfrog into first place.
Substitute Ofir Davidzada’s strike seven minutes from time secured Maccabi’s impressive 4-0 triumph last Saturday and the yellow-and-blue remained in first position when Beersheba and Beitar drew 1-1 a day later.
The three-headed battle for the championship could hardly be tighter, with Maccabi and Beersheba tied on 51 points with a plus-22 goal difference, but Tel Aviv having the edge as it has scored more goals.
Beitar is one point back and has a plus-25 goal difference.
With Beersheba and Beitar not in action until Sunday, Maccabi can put some pressure on its rivals with a victory in Ashdod.
Beersheba visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday, four days after losing 1-0 to the northerners in the second leg of the State Cup quarterfinals to drop to a 2-1 aggregate defeat.
Beitar, which advanced to the cup semis on Wednesday with a 2-0 aggregate win over Hapoel Kfar Saba, hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Acre.
Maccabi is unbeaten on the road in league action for more than four months, a seven-match streak that started after it lost 2-1 in Beersheba at the end of October. Tel Aviv has won four of its past five road games, but coach Jordi Cruyff is expecting a touch challenge against Ashdod, which drew 1-1 with Maccabi when the teams met for the first time this season.
Ashdod is coming off a painful 2-1 defeat to Hapoel Ra’anana which left it one spot and four points above the relegation zone. Ashdod was then knocked out of the cup by Ra’anana on Wednesday, losing 5-3 on penalties.
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Hapoel Ashkelon, Ra’anana visits Maccabi Petah Tikva and Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Bnei Yehuda. Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Haifa on Monday.