Roni Levy’s second tenure as Beitar Jerusalem coach will begin with a daunting visit to Bnei Sakhnin at Doha Stadium on Saturday night.

A journey up north to play Sakhnin is regarded at Beitar as one of the season’s toughest fixtures in the best of times, not to mention in the club’s current situation.

After the firing of coach Eli Cohen, Beitar dropped to a 2-1 defeat to league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Sunday, extending its losing streak to four matches, the team’s longest since May 2003.

Levy watched the match from the stands and was given a crash course on the dire state of the squad he inherited.

Making matters even more complicated is Beitar’s schedule, with Jerusalem to visit in-form Hapoel Beersheba next week after taking on surprise- package Sakhnin.

“The match against Sakhnin is especially important to both the players and the fans,” said Levy, who also guided Beitar in the first half of 2011. “Sakhnin is recording wonderful results, but in soccer everything is possible.”

Marco Balbul’s team sits in third place in the standings after winning its past three matches. Sakhnin has only lost twice this season, falling at the hands of the league’s top two teams, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba.

“Even though this is just another league match, we fully understand how important it is to our fans,” said Sakhnin defender Ali Osman. “Both sets of supporters have hated each other for many years, but we need to focus on the match. We know Beitar will be nervous after losing its past four encounters, but we will play our usual game. We want to make a statement with a win.”

For a third straight week, Hapoel Beersheba will be aiming to leapfrog Maccabi Tel Aviv to the summit of the standings, this time for at least 48 hours.

Beersheba can climb to first place with a win over Hapoel Ra’anana at Vasermil Stadium, with Maccabi not hosting Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby until Monday night.

Beersheba is unbeaten in six matches, winning four of its past five contests, while Ra’anana has lost two consecutive games after dropping just a single defeat in its first 10 matches of the campaign.

Also Saturday, Ashdod SC hosts Hapoel Acre, Hapoel Haifa visits Maccabi Petah Tikva and Ironi Kiryat Shmona welcomes Bnei Yehuda.

On Monday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.

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