Beitar Jerusalem’s Itay Shechter..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Beitar Jerusalem’s prolific offense is what has kept it in the thick of the Premier League title race in the season’s first half.
Any chance of challenging for the championship until the end of the campaign however, will likely rest on an improvement on the defensive end.
Beitar enters Saturday’s encounter at Ironi Kiryat Shmona just one point back of leader Hapoel Beersheba. Even a draw would be good enough for Beitar to move into first place on goal difference for at least 24 hours, with Beersheba hosting third-place Hapoel Haifa on Sunday. Fourth-place Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Maccabi Haifa on Monday.
That means Beitar can put some pressure on its rivals with a fourth straight victory on Saturday, which seems to be the likely outcome should Benny Ben-Zaken’s team register its third consecutive clean sheet.
Beitar has so far scored 40 goals in 17 matches this season, 10 more than any other team in the league. Jerusalem found the back of the net for a 23rd league match in a row in the 2-0 victory at Hapoel Haifa on Monday, setting a new club record.
Over its next five matches, Beitar faces only one fellow top-six team in Maccabi Netanya, giving it an ideal opportunity to continue and build momentum ahead of the back-end of the regular season.
Elsewhere Saturday, Netanya tries to make up some lost ground on the top four when it hosts Ashdod SC. Despite drawing compliments for its level of play in its first season back in the top flight, Netanya has struggled for results over recent months. Slobodan Drapic’s team, which is eight points behind fourth, has won only two of its past seven league games.
Ashdod dropped into the relegation zone after winning only one of its past nine games.
Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Acre visits Bnei Yehuda. Elsewhere Sunday, Hapoel Ashkelon welcomes Hapoel Ra’anana.