(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Premier League leader Hapoel Beersheba looks to pick up where it left off before the international break when it hosts Hapoel Haifa at Turner Stadium on Saturday night.
The reigning champion opened a four-point gap at the top with its fifth consecutive victory a little under two weeks ago, thrashing Hapoel Ashkelon 5-1.
The Southerners, who lead Maccabi Petah Tikva by four points and their main rival for the title Maccabi Tel Aviv by an additional point, have outscored their opponents 17-1 over their current winning streak.
Beersheba will be hoping to carry the momentum into Saturday’s match with Haifa, with coach Barak Bachar believing that the break actually came at a good time for his team.
“We needed a break because of the strain we are under,” explained Bachar. “We had the opportunity to renew our strength ahead of an important stretch of matches.” Beersheba hosts Inter Milan in Europa League action next Thursday before visiting Hapoel Kfar Saba three days later.
“We need to make sure we approach every match with the right attitude, even if it might look easy,” said Bachar, with Hapoel Haifa picking up just one point from its last four games.
“I hope that we show on Saturday that we are desperate for the win. Right now this match is our only focus.”
Haifa snapped a three-game losing streak with a 0-0 draw against Maccabi in the derby and coach Eli Cohen believes his team can build on that result on Saturday.
“The draw in the derby gave us confidence and we are optimistic we can get something from the match against Beersheba,” said Cohen.
“Beersheba is a perfect team, but we have the weapons to surprise them.”
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva aims to keep pace with Beersheba when it hosts Ashkelon, while Maccabi Haifa welcomes Hapoel Kfar Saba and Bnei Sakhnin faces Ashdod SC.
Maccabi Tel Aviv could find itself eight points back of Beersheba by the time it visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.
Maccabi hasn’t scored in three league matches, picking up only one point from the games against Maccabi Haifa, Beersheba and Petah Tikva.
“Our recent results haven’t been very good, but it is still early in the season,” said Maccabi midfielder Yossi Benayoun. “We have the quality to snap out of this and get back to winning ways.”
Also Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana hosts Bnei Yehuda, with Beitar Jerusalem welcoming Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night.