(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Even with almost half of the Premier League season still to play, Hapoel Beersheba can strike a decisive blow in the title race when its visits Maccabi Tel Aviv in Netanya on Saturday night.
The reigning champion enters the match eight points clear at the top of the standings and a second win of the season over the yellow-and-blue will open what would seem to be an almost unassailable 11-point gap, even with 15 games remaining in the season, including two more meetings between the sides.
Beersheba is winless in its past three road games, but increased its gap after defeating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 last Saturday before Maccabi Tel Aviv only managed a 2-2 draw at Maccabi Haifa.
Beersheba has lost just one of its past 16 matches, while Maccabi’s season-best three-match winning streak was snapped with the stalemate in Haifa. The draw also ended sports director Jordi Cruyff’s perfect record as interim coach, with the Dutchman still at the helm one month after the sacking of Shota Arveladze.
“All the games for us are important,” said Cruyff, who doesn’t believe the title race will be decided on Saturday.
Cruyff said that if he were the Beersheba coach he would be happy to settle for a draw, but Barak Bachar insisted that is not the case.
“We try and win every match we play,” said Bachar.
Beersheba didn’t sign any players in the final day of the winter transfer window on Thursday, but Maccabi was one of the busiest teams.
The yellow-and-blue completed the signing of Hapoel Tel Aviv’s 26-yearold American striker Aaron Schoenfeld for just under 800,000 euro, while also agreeing a loan deal with Chinese club Shijiazhuang for 30-year-old Portuguese midfielder Ruben Micael until the end of the season.