Hapoel Beersheba aims to move one step closer to turning a promising season into a memorable one when it faces Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the State Cup semifinals at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Wednesday night.
National League champion Maccabi Netanya plays Premier League-struggler Maccabi Petah Tikva in the first semi of the day, but the winner of the showdown between the top-flight’s two surprise packages this season is guaranteed to be the firm favorite to go on and lift the cup.
Beersheba was Maccabi Tel Aviv’s only challenger for the league championship until it suffered three defeats over its past five matches, picking up only four total points over that stretch to fall a massive 11 points behind the yellow-and-blue.
Kiryat Shmona beat Beersheba 2-0 in a preview of the semifinal at Vasermil Stadium on Saturday, but Beersheba is still well on course to end the season in second place, holding a nine-point gap over the northerners.
Kiryat Shmona is unbeaten in 11 league matches and like Beersheba is also set to qualify for the Europa League via the league, opening a seven- point margin over Hapoel Tel Aviv in fourth place.
Beersheba didn’t even have to face a Premier League side on its way to the semis, while Kiryat Shmona beat topflight teams in all three of its cup matches, overcoming Hapoel Acre, Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem by a combined goal difference of 8-0.
Both teams are hoping injuries don’t rob them of two of their most influential players, with Beersheba captain Elyaniv Barda and Kiryat Shmona goalkeeper Guy Haimov expected to play in the semis despite limping off the pitch on Saturday.
Netanya may be the only National League team to reach the last four, but it will not be lacking in confidence against Petah Tikva.
Netanya has already wrapped up the second division championship and promotion to the Premier League with five matches still to play, holding a 20-point gap at the top.
Yossi Mizrahi’s team also knocked out Hapoel Ramat Hasharon of the Premier League in the quarters, while Petah Tikva is far more concerned with its battle against relegation, currently sitting rock-bottom of the standings, three points from safety.
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