HAPOEL BEERSHEBA striker Shlomi Arbeitman is hoping his stunning winner in the victory over Hapoel Haifa will earn him a starting role on Saturday at Bnei Yehuda..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba looks to extend its longest winning streak in 19 years and maintain its hold on first place in the Premier League standings when it visits Bnei Yehuda in Herzliya on Saturday.
A stunning Shlomi Arbeitman bicycle kick gave Beersheba a 1-0 win over Hapoel Haifa at Turner Stadium last week, securing the team a fifth consecutive league win, its longest streak since 1996.
Beersheba is ahead of threetime defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv by virtue of its superior defensive record, conceding nine goals to the yellowand- blue’s 11, with both teams scoring 20 goals to date.
Maccabi visits Hapoel Haifa at Haifa Stadium on Saturday.
“Beersheba is the best in the league now,” admitted Maccabi midfielder Nosa Igiebor, who could start his first league game of the season on Saturday after recovering from injury. “Everything is going well, but don’t forget they are not playing Champions League. They play one game a week and relax. These two weeks were important to us because we rested a little bit and I think we will have a good game on Saturday.”
Maccabi, which hosts English champion Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday, has won five of its past six league games, but unlike Beersheba, has rarely impressed.
“I believe that these two weeks off came at just the right time,” said Tel Aviv’s 47-year-old Serbian coach Slavisa Jokanovic. “We needed rest and to renew our strength. I expect that we will play better than the last few matches.
I’m working with my current squad and it’s clear that we have to perform better than we have been,” added Maccabi’s Jokanovic conceded that there had recently been interest in his services from England, with reports linking him with Blackburn Rovers of the English Championship, but he insisted he remains focused on Maccabi.
“I’m not really thinking about Hapoel Beersheba right now, but just about our own play... If everryone thinks Beersheba is better than us then that gives us a lot of room to improve.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Reuven Atar begins his fifth tenure as coach of Maccabi Netanya when it hosts Hapoel Ra’anana.
Shlomi Dora was sacked after the team’s poor start to the campaign, with Netanya bottom of the league with just a single win from 10 matches.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Kfar Saba welcomes Bnei Sakhnin.
Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Acre on Sunday, with Guy Levy to guide Hapoel Tel Aviv for the first time when it faces Maccabi Haifa in Netanya on Monday.