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(photo credit: MK Productions)
Betar Jerusalem can complete a remarkable turnaround by defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night and leapfrogging the yellow-and-blue into third position in the Premier League standings in the final weekend of matches before the league is divided into three sections and point totals are halved.
Betar trailed Maccabi by some 17 points seven weeks ago, but five straight wins followed by a draw at Hapoel Ramat Gan last week, combined with Tel Aviv’s seven-match winless streak, has put Jerusalem in prime position to secure European qualification by finishing third in the league.
“This is an extremely important match,” said Betar defender Shimon Gershon. “We want to rescue something from this season. We want to finish in third position and this match presents us with a chance to overtake Maccabi into third place. Everyone knows the meaning of finishing in third and qualifying for the Europa League.”
Despite Betar’s streak and Maccabi’s struggles, Gershon is expecting a very tough match on Saturday.
“We have shown a lot of improvement recently, but Maccabi is a good team and will be a dangerous opponent especially after losing its last few matches,” Gershon added.
All 16 teams will be in action on Saturday and will be hoping to improve their positions ahead of the final five-match stretch to end the season.
Starting from next weekend, the top six teams will play each other one more time to decide the champion. The bottom six teams will also each play another five times to determine the relegation battle, with the four teams placed in the middle of the standings playing three more games to decide who finishes in the seventh to 10th positions.
Sixth-placed Ashdod SC needs a home victory over Hapoel Petah Tikva to secure a top-six finish, with Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Beersheba two and three points back, respectively, and still in with a chance of overtaking Ashdod and ending the campaign with the big boys.
Sakhnin, which has won eight of its last 11 matches, visits Ahi Nazareth, with Beersheba welcoming Hapoel Acre.
Hapoel Ramat Gan is the only team which can escape the bottom six on Saturday.
However, to do so, Ramat Gan will have to defeat Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium and will also need either Maccabi Petah Tikva or Maccabi Netanya to lose at home to Hapoel Ra’anana and Bnei Yehuda, respectively.
Hapoel Tel Aviv can not afford to drop any more points and is a clear
favorite to get the better of Ramat Gan. Tel Aviv, which trails Maccabi
Haifa by eight points, has won eight of its last nine matches, scoring
four goals or more in six of them.
Maccabi Haifa will be looking to complete a remarkable two rounds of
action when it hosts cross-town rival Hapoel in the local derby on
A victory on Saturday will give the Greens their 26th win in 30 matches, an amazing success rate of 86.7 percent.