Israel's national team coach Eli Gutman.
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Four years and eight months since he did so for the last time, Eli Gutman will guide Hapoel Tel Aviv once more on Saturday evening.
Gutman returned to the head coaching position at Hapoel on Tuesday following the sacking of Guy Levy and his first match back in charge will be against Bnei Sakhnin in a crucial showdown in the battle against relegation.
Gutman was named as the club’s manager just last week, returning to the team he lead to the Premier League and State Cup double six years ago, as well as a place in the Champions League group stage.
The 57-year-old’s four-year tenure as Israel coach came to an end last October, a day after the national team’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign finished in bitter disappointment.
Gutman signed a three-and-a-halfyear deal at Hapoel, accepting an offer to fill a role established especially for him. He said only last Monday that he wanted Levy to continue as coach, especially as the club has already been through many shocks this season.
However, following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Hapoel Kfar Saba, which left the team only three points above the relegation zone, and Levy’s unwillingness to allow Gutman to conduct training sessions, Hapoel decided it was time to part ways with Levy.
Gutman is Hapoel’s fourth coach this season, just one fewer than the team’s total amount of victories in the Premier League to date.
Spaniard Cesar Mendiondo began the campaign, but was sacked after two matches, assistant Walid Badir guided the team in the following two months before Levy took charge.
Hapoel has won just one of its past seven matches, while Sakhnin is only a single point above the bottom two after also claiming a single victory from its last seven contests.
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv can return to the summit of the standings for at least 24 hours when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium.
Maccabi is one point back of Hapoel Beersheba, which hosts Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday.
“I always say that the way we play is the most important thing,” said Maccabi coach Peter Bosz, who has so far won all three of his matches in charge of the yellow- and-blue. “I always look at my team and that’s 95 percent of the match.”
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehdua hosts Hapoel Haifa, Hapoel Acre visits Hapoel Ra’anana and Hapoel Kfar Saba welcomes Maccabi Netanya, which will be guided by new coach Menahem Koretzki for the first time.
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona.