Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to retain its stranglehold on the local derby and move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League standings when it visits Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday night.
Hapoel Beersheba’s surprise 1-0 loss to Hapoel Ra’anana on Saturday means Maccabi can take a significant cushion into the championship playoffs and the final 10 games of the season should it defeat its cross-town rival for a fourth consecutive time.
The yellow-and-blue lost the first derby of last season back in November 2012, but has dominated the Reds ever since.
Maccabi went on to claim 4-0 and 2-0 victories before coming back from twogoals down for a 4-2 triumph late last season.
Eran Zahavi’s winner gave the team a 1-0 victory in the most recent showdown between the sides last December.
Maccabi enters the derby as a firm favorite once more on Monday, beating Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 last week for its 14th win from the past 16 matches. Hapoel defeated Ashdod SC 5-4 last Saturday, snapping a four-match winless streak.
Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa was without three of his four regular starters in defense last week, but Eitan Tibi, Carlos Garcia and Shiran Yeini are all set to be back in the lineup on Monday.
Despite their absence last week, Maccabi registered its 15th clean sheet in 25 league matches, while Hapoel has conceded the fifth-most goals in the league.
Hapoel will also have to manage with a makeshift lineup in defense on Monday, with Bryan Gerzicich set to start with Orel Dgani in the center of coach Ran Ben-Shimon’s back-four due to Branko Ilic’s suspension.
The league will be split in two after every team completes a 26-game schedule on Monday. The top six will face each other twice more, while the bottom eight clubs will play one another one more time. The bottom two sides will be relegated to the National League.
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon remained in last place on Sunday following a 2-1 home defeat to Maccabi Haifa.
Alon Turgeman handed Haifa the lead in the 15th minute following a Ramat Hasharon defensive lapse, only for Yossi Shivhon to equalize for the hosts after a clinical team move 15 minutes later.
Haifa's winner arrived in the 80th minute courtesy of Idan Vered, moving the Greens tied on points with third-place Ironi Kiryat Shmona.