Levy cautious ahead of Mac Haifa's crucial clash with Hap TA

Local Soccer: In practically any other season, Hapoel Tel Aviv would be a firm favorite to claim the Premier League title.

January 25, 2010 05:38
2 minute read.
Levy cautious ahead of Mac Haifa's crucial clash with Hap TA

Maccabi Haifa 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

In practically any other season Hapoel Tel Aviv would be a firm favorite to claim the Premier League title.

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Not only has Eli Gutman's team been playing some wonderful soccer both locally and abroad, but it has also racked up the points in recent months, winning 10 of its past 12 league matches.

However, Hapoel enters Monday's showdown with Maccabi Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium some 10 points behind the reigning champion, and under intense pressure to claim the victory to remain within touching distance of the leaders.

Even with the league's new format, which will see the each team's total cut by half ahead of the final five matches of the season, Tel Aviv can simply not afford to lose on Monday.

Haifa's record breaking start to the campaign has seen it win 17 of 18 games, including a 2-1 victory over Hapoel at Bloomfield Stadium in September.

Another win on Monday will put Elisha Levy's team in a very comfortable situation, even with the season only just past its halfway mark.

"There are no favorites in this match," said a cautious Levy. "We are playing at home and we are in good form. There are no secrets between the teams. We know their weaknesses and they know ours."

Levy will be without the injured Eyal Golasa and suspended Eyal Meshumar on Monday, with Ali Osman to replace the latter in the starting lineup. Mohammad Ghadir will start on the right wing, while top-scorer Shlomi Arbeitman is set to begin the match on the bench once more.

Hapoel's new signings, Dutch midfielder Daniel de Ridder and Bolivian international defender Miguel Hoyos, are not expected to start, with star goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to miss out yet again as he is still away with the Nigeria national team in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Gutman will otherwise have a full squad at his disposal, with Gili Vermut and Itai Shechter to be the key players in the team's offensive play once more.

Vermut and Shechter will have to be at their best if Hapoel is to reverse its recent history against the Greens at Kiryat Eliezer.

Over the past 12 seasons, Tel Aviv has played 17 times against Haifa on the road, winning just once, while losing 11 matches and drawing five.

Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Hapoel Beersheba 0

On Sunday, Maccabi Petah Tikva continued its resurgence, defeating Hapoel Beersheva 1-0 on the road for its third win in four matches. Nitzan Damari scored the only goal of the match in the 17th minute and Freddy David's team moved five points clear of the relegation zone.

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