Despite leading the Premier League standings, Maccabi Tel Aviv enters Saturday’s trip to Hapoel Ramat Hasharon looking to avert a full-blown crisis after losing its last two matches, failing to find the back of the net in either.

Maccabi was well placed to build a significant cushion at the top of the table just two weeks ago, winning seven of eight matches to take a six-point gap into the derby against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

However, it ended the derby with a 1-0 defeat and nine-men before falling to Bnei Yehuda by the same score-line last week, allowing Hapoel to move tied on 21 points.

Operation Pillar of Defense almost resulted in Maccabi’s foreign coaching staff and players leaving the country, but they can’t afford another lapse of concentration in Saturday’s encounter at the underrated Ramat Hasharon.

Ramat Hasharon climbed up to sixth place last week with a 2-1 win at Maccabi Netanya and has already claimed the scalp of Hapoel Tel Aviv this season, beating the Reds 1-0 at home two months ago.

Ramat Hasharon will be without Hristijan Kirovski and Yordan Miliev on Saturday after the two left Israel on Wednesday due to the security situation.

Maccabi will welcome back Carlos Garcia and striker Eliran Atar from suspension as it looks to hold on to first place for at least another week.

Hapoel Tel Aviv, which faced Atletico Madrid in the Europa League late Thursday night, hosts Hapoel Beersheba on Monday.

Ashdod SC could have scaled the top of the standings last week had its match against Hapoel Acre not been postponed due to the rocket fire from Gaza.

Yossi Mizrahi’s men could still move into first place on Saturday should they win at Hapoel Ramat Gan combined with a Maccabi draw or defeat against Ramat Hasharon.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Acre and Maccabi Netanya visits Bnei Sakhnin. Bnei Yehuda welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.

On Monday, the surging Betar Jerusalem hosts the sorry Maccabi Haifa.

Betar is unbeaten in its last six matches, winning four of its last five, while Haifa has still got just one victory to its name this season.

Haifa had hoped to have Ran Ben-Shimon on the sidelines as Reuven Atar’s full-time replacement for the match at Teddy Stadium, but the Greens have been unable to come to an agreement with his current club AEK Larnaca.

Should Haifa fail to complete the signing of Ben-Shimon, youth team coach Arik Benado, who guided the senior side in Monday’s 0-0 draw against Sakhnin, is expected to take charge on a full-time basis until the end of the season.

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