After suffering an unexpected setback in Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Tel Aviv is determined to get its Premier League title defense back on track when it hosts Ashdod SC at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday evening.

Maccabi dropped to a surprising 3-1 defeat at Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday and enters this weekend’s action leading second-placed Hapoel Beersheba by a mere three points.

The yellow-and-blue refused to panic after its second loss of the season, with coach Paulo Sousa instead complimenting Kiryat Shmona on the win and star midfielder Eran Zahavi insisting that Maccabi has never taken anything for granted.

“We faced a good side on the road and this can happen to the best teams in the world,” said Zahavi.

“Losing is part of the game and we have already put it behind us. We are not the ones who said we had already wrapped up the championship. It was the media who said it. We only focus on our upcoming match and that will not change.”

Maccabi has picked up 25 of a possible 27 points from its nine home matches so far this season and will increase its gap over Beersheba to six points for at least 48 hours with another victory on Saturday. Beersheba doesn’t host Maccabi Haifa until Monday night.

Kiryat Shmona climbed to fourth place with its triumph over Maccabi, but faces a tricky match against third-placed Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday. Sakhnin will be desperate to claim a win after losing its past two contests.

Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking to make it three wins in a row when it visits Hapoel Ra’anana on Saturday. The Reds have yet to claim three-straight victories this season, while Ra’anana is winless in its past seven games.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Acre and Bnei Yehuda visits Maccabi Petah Tikva.

Beitar Jerusalem welcomes Hapoel Ramat Hasharon to Teddy Stadium on Sunday night.



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