Maccabi Tel Aviv will be hoping to exorcise the ghosts of recent seasons when it visits Hapoel Acre in Premier League action on Saturday night.

Maccabi was outplayed at Acre in each of the past two campaigns. The yellow-and-blue lost the fixture 3-0 last season, with coach Moti Ivanir being sacked two weeks later. Acre also beat Tel Aviv 3-1 in November 2010, with manager Avi Nimni being sent packing less than two months afterwards.

With Maccabi picking up 15 of a possible 18 points from its first six matches, there is absolutely no chance current coach Oscar Garcia will be fired any time soon, regardless of Saturday’s result.

The Spaniard is actually hoping the setbacks of recent seasons will fuel his players for the showdown with Acre.

“We will use these defeats to motivate our players.” Oscar said on Thursday.

“All the players are aware of the team’s results in Acre in the last couple of years.”

Despite completely overhauling the squad in the summer and replacing successful coach Eli Cohen with the inexperienced Shimon Hadari, Acre currently finds itself in fourth position, four points behind Maccabi, after winning three of its last four matches and drawing the other against Maccabi Haifa.

“I have no doubt that we are facing the league’s next champion, but champions also lose and I hope they drop points against us,” said Hadari.

“I said at the start of the season that Acre will be built on teamwork and not on stars and I knew why I was predicting that we have a good enough squad to reach the top six playoffs.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv is currently only kept off the top of the table by Ashdod SC’s superior goal difference.

Maccabi beat Yossi Mizrahi’s team 2-1 two weeks ago and Ashdod will be looking to rebound from that defeat when it hosts champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday.

Ashdod lost its perfect record with the loss to Tel Aviv and will face a real test of character against Kiryat Shmona, which is also desperate for a win after picking up just one point from its last three matches.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Beersheba, Maccabi Netanya visits Hapoel Ramat Gan and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon faces rock-bottom Bnei Sakhnin.

Bnei Yehuda hosts Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday, while Hapoel Tel Aviv welcomes Maccabi Haifa to the same stadium the following night.

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