Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to end Ashdod SC’s unbeaten home run on Tuesday night or its dream of claiming a first Premier League and State Cup double since 1996 will be dashed at the first hurdle.
The top-flight clubs open their State Cup campaigns on Tuesday and Wednesday, with four all-Premier League ties, including Maccabi’s visit to Ashdod, to already take place in the round-of-32.
Maccabi currently holds a three-point gap over Hapoel Beersheba at the top of the league standings, winning nine of its past 10 matches. However, it could only manage a 0-0 draw at Ashdod in October and struggled to a 2-0 win over Nir Klinger’s team at Bloomfield Stadium just 10 days ago.
Ashdod has yet to lose at home this season, winning six and drawing four of its 10 games at the Yud-Alef Stadium.
Ashdod drew 0-0 with Bnei Sakhnin at home on Saturday, leaving it in seventh place in the standings, and has conceded just a single goal during its last six matches at Yud-Alef.
“We always enter matches with the same mentality, but certain matches need to be won in different ways and Tuesday’s game will certainly be different,” said Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa.
Ashdod coach Klinger, who is also a former Maccabi boss, will be without influential midfielder David Solari on Tuesday due to a knee injury, but remains hopeful of recording a classic cup upset.
“The cup is a competition where anything is possible and any team can win it,” said Klinger. “Unfortunately for us and Maccabi we were handed an unpleasant draw.”
Also Tuesday, Hapoel Beersheba looks to translate its sizzling league form to the cup when it hosts Maccabi Sha’arayim of the third division. Beersheba is unbeaten in 13 league contests, and despite being without suspended captain Elyaniv Barda on Tuesday, the Southerners expect to record a straightforward victory.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Hapoel Acre in another all-Premier League affair on Tuesday. Kiryat Shmona suffered its first home defeat of the season on Saturday, losing 1-0 to Beersheba.
There is guaranteed to be one team from the fourth division in the round-of-16 after the two remaining sides from Liga Bet, Ma’alot-Tarshiha and Hapoel Baqa al-Gharbiyye, were drawn to face each other.
Elsewhere Tuesday: Maccabi Petah Tikva (Premier League) vs Maccabi Yavne (National League); Hapoel Kfar Saba (Third division) vs Ahi Nazareth (NL); Hapoel Katamon (NL) vs Hapoel Rishon Lezion (NL); Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (PL) vs Maccabi Umm al-Fahm (NL); Beitar Tel Aviv/Ramle (NL) vs Hapoel Upper Nazareth (NL); Bnei Lod (NL) vs Hapoel Afula (NL) and Hapoel Ramat Gan (NL) vs Maccabi Netanya (NL).
Two more all-Premier League encounters will take place on Wednesday, with Maccabi Haifa visiting Hapoel Ra’anana and Hapoel Tel Aviv hosting Hapoel Haifa.
Also Wednesday: Beitar Jerusalem (PL) vs Ironi Bat Yam (third division); Hapoel Petah Tikva (NL) vs Bnei Yehuda (PL) and Kafr Qasim (third division) vs Bnei Sakhnin (PL).