Maccabi Tel Aviv star Eran Zahavi.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
With the longest unbeaten run in European soccer and a three-point cushion at the top of the Premier League standings, Hapoel Beersheba enters Monday’s encounter against Beitar Jerusalem at Turner Stadium brimming with confidence.
Beersheba can move within four points of a first championship in 40 years with a victory, and that is assuming second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv defeats Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya. A Beersheba win combined with a yellow-andblue loss will leave the southerners needing just a single point from their final two matches to secure the league title.
Beersheba maintained its three-point lead over Maccabi and extended its unbeaten run to 28 league matches with last week’s 0-0 draw against its title rival at Bloomfield Stadium. Italian giant Juventus entered Sunday’s clash with Verona with the second longest undefeated league run in Europe, going 26 matches without a loss.
Beersheba returns to Turner after three consecutive road matches, but it hasn’t won at home in its past four games, being held to draws time and again.
“We are very happy to be returning to Turner,” insisted Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We have regained our top form in recent matches and I expect us to win at home as well. Our unbeaten run is impressive, but it will be worthless if we don’t go on and win the title.”
Maccabi is unbeaten in 18 matches and has yet to lose a game since the hiring of coach Peter Bosz at the beginning of January. However, three straight goalless deadlocks have seen it surrender the initiative in the title race.
“We need to win our three games and then look at Beersheba,” said Bosz on Sunday. “We can put maximum pressure on them by winning our games and this is where our focus must be.”