Hapoel Beersheba coach Elisha Levy did his best to deflect the pressure off his team by claiming Maccabi Tel Aviv will be the favorite when the Premier League’s first and second placed teams meet at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday.

Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa returned the favor by showering compliments on the yellow-and-blue’s upcoming opponent.

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Just like every top-of-the-table clash in previous campaigns, psychological warfare is also part of Sunday’s mouthwatering showdown between the Premier League’s dominant forces this season.

Maccabi enters the match with a three-point cushion over Beersheba, but dropped to a 3-2 defeat when the teams met at Vasermil Stadium three months ago.

The defending champion from Tel Aviv has won 10 of its past 11 games to maintain its hold on first place, and has picked up 28 out of a possible 30 points at home to date.

The yellow-and-blue has also conceded just two goals in its past eight matches, but Beersheba was the only team to find the back of the net more than twice against Maccabi this season and has failed to score just once in nine road contests.

Beersheba is also unbeaten in 14 matches, triumphing in six of its past seven encounters.

Nevertheless, Levy believes Maccabi will be the favorite on Sunday.

“If I say this is just another match I wouldn’t be telling the truth,” said Levy. “This is a very significant match.

We have worked very hard to get to this point. We are very confident and know we are a good and strong team.

But naturally Maccabi is the favorite.

They are playing at home and are the defending champions.”

Sousa was full of praise for Beersheba.

“Beersheba has currently amassed six more points than Maccabi had at this stage last season,” he explained.

“They are putting up numbers worthy of a champion and deserve a lot of credit for that. It is very difficult to win a second straight championship as everyone is waiting for you to fall.”

On Saturday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Ra’anana, Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Ashdod SC, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon welcomes Bnei Sakhnin, Ironi Kiryat Shmona faces Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem goes to Bnei Yehuda.

Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Acre on Monday.

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