MACCABI TEL AVIV is the overwhelming favorite to capture the Premier League championship as the Championship Playoffs kick off this weekend..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The Israel Premier League heads into the playoff rounds on Saturday after completing a 26-game regular season.
Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to be the runaway champion after dominating the league of 14 teams with a record of 20 wins and six draws to date, good for a 22-point lead over the second-place Maccabi Haifa.
The top six teams in the league after the regular system play in what is called the Championship Playoffs, while the remaining eight clubs will play in the Relegation Playoffs. Only those teams in the Championship Playoffs have a chance to win the league title and the others look to avoid being relegated and dropping into the Leumit League, or the second division.
In the Championship Playoffs, each side will play the other in a home-and-away format for 10 more games, bringing the total of contests played to a total of 36 at the end of the season.
However, with the yellow-and-blue holding such a large lead, Vladimir Ivic’s squad could conceivably wrap up the league title with wins in its first two matches against Hapoel Hadera and Maccabi Haifa, both at home.
But not all is lost for the remaining teams in the Championship Playoffs as they will battle it out for a place in Europa League qualification. Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Beersheba, Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Hadera will all have a chance to punch a ticket to participate in the qualification rounds.
And what about Maccabi Tel Aviv? Should there be no crazy surprises, the yellow-and-blue would become the sole Israeli representative in the Champions League qualifiers and will look to secure a spot in the exclusive tournament, in which it has appeared twice, back in 2004 and 2015.
The eight teams in the Relegation Playoffs will face one another only once for a total of seven more games, with the two last-place teams moving down a league.
Hapoel Haifa is the first place team in the bottom half of the table while Hapoel Tel Aviv, Kiryat Shmona, Hapoel Ra’anana, Beitar Jerusalem, Maccabi Petah Tikva, Ashdod and Bnei Sakhnin all follow them with the last two in danger of being relegated.Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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