After getting the better of Betar Jerusalem in its last Premier League match two weeks ago, Hapoel Beersheba has its sights set on toppling defending champion and current league leader Maccabi Haifa on Saturday.
Beersheba beat Betar 3-2 thanks to three first-half goals before the international break, but coach Guy Azuri knows his team will have to play even better at the Vasermil Stadium on Saturday if it has any intention of ruining Haifa's perfect start to the season.
"Haifa is the best team in the country and we know exactly what we are up against," Azuri said. "The match will depend on Haifa and we must remain focused for the entire 90 minutes because one good half will not be enough against Maccabi."
Haifa has strolled so far in the league, winning all five of its matches with relative ease, and coach Elisha Levy was adamant on Thursday that his team is focused on Saturday's match and is not thinking about next week's Champions League encounter against Juventus.
"We have a perfect record and have improved with every match and I hope that continues," Levy said. "We understand that the league is the most important competition. We are not talking about Juventus, but preparing for Beersheba as we understand that this match will be very difficult."
Newly promoted Hapoel Haifa has surprised everyone with its start to the season, winning four of its first five matches. Only its cross-town rival is placed ahead of it in the standings and coach Shlomi Dora has spent the last two weeks trying to bring his players back down to earth.
"It is not simple to enter a match as a favorite," Dora said ahead of his team's home encounter against the struggling Hapoel Petah Tikva.
"We want to build on our early season momentum, but it won't be easy."
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv have collected just eight points in five matches, but are expected to claim easy wins on Saturday. Hapoel will be looking for its second straight victory when it hosts the disappointing Ashdod SC.
Maccabi is winless in its last three matches after opening the season with two straight wins, but will be confident of taking all three points at lowly Hapoel Ra'anana.
Also Saturday, rock-bottom Maccabi Netanya visits Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Ramat Gan hosts Nazareth. On Sunday, Hapoel Acre faces Bnei Sakhnin and on Monday Betar hosts Bnei Yehuda.
On TV: Saturday: Hapoel Beersheba vs Maccabi Haifa (live on Sport 1 at 7:30 p.m.); Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Ashdod SC (live on Sport 2 at 6:20 p.m.)