Hapoel Tel Aviv midfielder Israel Zaguri will be hoping to build on his two goals in last week’s 3-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin..
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
With the first three places in the Premier League all but decided, the focus turns on Saturday to the fight against relegation.
Only seven points separate the bottom six sides with each club having four matches to play, with the teams in 13th and 14th places to be demoted to the National League.
Rock-bottom Maccabi Petah Tikva finds itself in the most difficult situation, sitting three points adrift of safety on 24 points. Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (27) is currently also in a position that leads to relegation, but it only trails Bnei Yehuda (27) on goal difference. Hapoel Acre (30), Hapoel Haifa (31) and Hapoel Ra’anana (31) are also all far from safe, meaning the battle for survival will likely go down to the wire once more.
The bottom two face off at Grundman Stadium when Ramat Hasharon hosts Petah Tikva on Saturday, with Ramat Hasharon entering the contest in the better form after losing just once over its past six matches.
Petah Tikva was knocked out in the State Cup semifinals by National League champion Maccabi Netanya on Wednesday and has won only one of its last six league games.
“We are trying to stop the losing streak in every match, but we can’t manage to do so,” said Petah Tikva striker Roei Dayan after Wednesday’s cup defeat. “We have four more matches left in the league and each one of them is a cup final.”
Hapoel Ra’anana beat Petah Tikva 4-2 last week to extend its unbeaten streak to four games, but it faces a stern examination against Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday. Bnei Yehuda has lost just once in its past 12 encounters, bringing a fivematch unbeaten streak into Saturday.
Also Saturday, Acre visits Ashdod SC, while Hapoel Haifa welcomes Beitar Jerusalem on Monday night.
The only thing seemingly left to be decided in the top half of the standings is which team finishes in fourth place, which will lead to Europa League qualification should Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat Netanya in the cup final and end the campaign in third place or higher.
Hapoel Tel Aviv (47) holds a three-point gap in fourth place ahead of its visit to Kiryat Shmona (54) on Saturday, while Maccabi Haifa (44) hosts second-place Hapoel Beersheba (63), which will be looking to rebound from the dejecting defeat to Kiryat Shmona in the cup semis.
Bnei Sakhnin (43) welcomes champion- elect Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday.