Hapoel Beersheba striker Tomas Pekhart (Danny Maron).
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba owns the longest unbeaten home record in European soccer. However, its inability to win at Turner Stadium on a consistent basis since the start of 2018 has cost it precious points in the tightest championship battle in decades.
Beersheba still enters the final weekend of the regular season in first place with a one-point lead over Beitar Jerusalem in second place and two in front of Maccabi Tel Aviv in third. But the six points it has dropped by drawing three of its last six home games, could come back to haunt the two-time reigning champion at the end of the season.
After FK Vardar Skopja of Macedonia saw its four-year 67-match unbeaten run at home come to an end earlier this week, Beersheba’s 47 game streak, stretching back to the opening of its new stadium in September 2015, is the longest in any UEFA member league.
Beersheba will be confident of extending it against Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday and will be desperate to do so with a win rather than another draw. Beersheba can secure it will enter the top-six championship playoffs in first place with a victory, ensuring it will also play at home in its first two playoff games, including hosting the team that will end the regular season in second place.
Beitar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Ra’anana on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv welcoming Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.
After losing its first three games following the hiring of coach Tal Banin, Sakhnin is unbeaten in its past four matches and has moved well clear of the battle against relegation. Sakhnin has beaten Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Ashkelon and would have made it three wins in a row had it not conceded a stoppage-time equalizer against Bnei Yehuda last weekend.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Haifa could find itself just five points above the relegation zone should it lose at Hapoel Ashkelon. Haifa’s disastrous season continued to get worse with Monday’s 3-0 loss to Hapoel Haifa, leaving the Greens with only two wins from their past 15 games. Fortunately for the club that dominated local soccer in the first decade of the 21st century, Ashkelon has lost eight matches in a row to keep Haifa eight points above the bottom two.
Elsewhere, fourth-place Hapoel Haifa welcomes Ashdod SC, while Bnei Yehuda hosts Maccabi Netanya, with both teams already securing their place in the top six. Rock-bottom Hapoel Acre plays Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.