Hapoel Beersheba aims to continue its dream season by moving one step closer to its first title in 17 years when it visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League in the State Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
After only avoiding relegation in the final match of last season, Beersheba has been Maccabi Tel Aviv’s only real rival for the Premier League title this term. Elisha Levy’s team has already all but secured its place in the Europa League next season by effectively wrapping up the runners- up position with nine matches still to play, opening a seemingly unassailable 15-point gap.
While Beersheba refuses to throw in the towel in the battle for the championship, especially with a showdown against Maccabi coming up next Monday, the southerners understand that their best chance of ending the season with silverware is by lifting the cup for the second time in club history and the first since 1997.
Beersheba’s 2-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday was its ninth win from the past 11 matches and Levy’s men will be confident of overcoming Rishon Lezion at the Haberfeld Stadium on Tuesday.
Rishon, which stunned Sakhnin in the round of 16, is fighting for its life in the National League, currently sitting in 14th place out of 16 teams after losing 6-1 at Hapoel Afula on Friday.
Also Tuesday, Ma’alot-Tarshiha, which is just the second team ever from the fourth tier or lower to reach the last eight of the cup, will visit Maccabi Petah Tikva of the top flight.
Ma’alot-Tarshiha, which is only in fourth place in one of Liga Bet’s two northern districts, will be looking to complete a double against the Petah Tikva clubs after shocking Hapoel Petah Tikva of the National League 2-1 in the previous round.
The National League’s runaway leader, Maccabi Netanya, is optimistic of reaching the semis despite hosting Hapoel Ramat Hasharon of the Premier League on Tuesday.
Netanya is on the verge of securing its return to the top flight, leading the second division standings by 12 points. Ramat Hasharon is battling for Premier League survival, currently occupying last place in the standings, although it is just a mere three points from safety.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Beitar Jerusalem in the final quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Kiryat Shmona moved into pole position in the battle for third place and Europa League qualification on Saturday, beating Maccabi Haifa 1-0 to extend its unbeaten streak to eight matches and open a three point lead over the Greens.
With a 10-point gap on the relegation zone, all Beitar has left to play for this season is the cup.