Hapoel Tel Aviv players Ben Reichert (left) and Or Ostvind prepare to renew the game with Ironi Kiryat Shmona players celebrating in the background after taking a 2-0 lead in last night’s eventual 2-1 win in Premier League action..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
After 27 years and a tumultuous season during which it was on the brink of going into liquidation, Hapoel Tel Aviv could be relegated to the National League on Saturday.
Hapoel hosts Hapoel Ashkelon in Petah Tikva in their penultimate match of the campaign, with both sides knowing they still have their fate in their own hands.
A win for Ashkelon, which is one point ahead of Tel Aviv and the relegation zone, will secure it another season in the Premier League while relegating Hapoel, which apart from one season (1989/90) has spent its entire history playing in the top flight.
A victory for Hapoel will take it above Ashkelon and out of the bottom two and will mean it will control its destiny entering the final weekend of the campaign.
A draw will also mean the battle against demotion won’t be resolved until next weekend, with Ashkelon to maintain a one-point edge.
Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Ra’anana next weekend, while Ashkelon will host Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Both Tel Aviv and Ashkelon enter their showdown on the back of defeats. Hapoel lost 2-0 to Ashdod SC last Thursday, while Ashkelon fell 1-0 to rock-bottom Hapoel Kfar Saba.
Kfar Saba kept alive its lingering hopes of survival with last Thursday’s win, moving within three points of Ashkelon and safety.
Kfar Saba visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday and a second straight victory, something it hasn’t achieved all season, will ensure it enters the game against Hapoel Haifa in the final weekend with everything to play for.
Bnei Yehuda is also still not safe, sitting four points above the bottom two. Bnei Yehuda enters Saturday’s game at Hapoel Haifa in complete disarray, with CEO Kfir Edri and goalkeeping coach Yakov Asayag to guide the team following the resignation of coach Nissan Yehezkel and the departure of sports director Yitzhak Schum.
Yehezkel quit after claiming he wasn’t given the freedom to make his own decisions, while Schum was sacked by owner Barak Avramov three days later.
Avramov has already signed Bnei Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis to guide the team in 2017/18.
Also in the relegation playoffs, Ashdod hosts Ra’anana in a meaningless encounter.
In the championship playoffs, Beitar Jerusalem will try to strengthen its hold on third place by equaling its season-best winning streak with a third straight victory when it visits Sakhnin. Beitar is two points above Maccabi Petah Tikva, which visits champion Hapoel Beersheba on Monday.
Third place guarantees a berth in the Europa League qualifiers next season, while fourth will also be good enough should Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Bnei Yehuda in the State Cup final later this month.
The yellow-and-blue visits Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.