Portuguese striker Orlando Sa (center) scored on his debut for Maccabi Tel Aviv in a late round-of-16 State Cup tie against Hapoel Rishon Lezion, January 28, 2016.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Despite only claiming two road wins over Hapoel Tel Aviv in more than 21 years, Hapoel Beersheba enters Saturday’s Premier League encounter at Bloomfield Stadium as a firm favorite.
Beersheba had gone 19 years without a road victory over Hapoel before beating the Reds at Bloomfield twice over six months in 2013/14.
However, it suffered a 3-2 defeat in the same fixture last season in what was its first loss of the campaign.
History may not be on its side ahead of Saturday’s showdown, but considering the recent form displayed by both teams, anything but a Beersheba win will be a major upset.
Beersheba hasn’t lost a league match in over four months, maintaining its hold on first place by extending its unbeaten streak to 15 games with Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Beitar Jerusalem.
Barak Bachar’s men have won 13 of their matches over that stretch and also advanced to the State Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 away from home.
While Beersheba has played the best soccer in the country in the first half of the season, Hapoel Tel Aviv has dropped to new lows time and again. Hapoel is on its fourth coach of the season following the sacking of Guy Levy, but the hiring of Eli Gutman has not resulted in the reaction owner Amir Kabiri was hoping for.
Hapoel remained three points above the relegation zone after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Bnei Sakhnin in Gutman’s first match in charge before being knocked out in the State Cup round of 16 with a 2-1 defeat at Hapoel Kfar Saba on Tuesday.
“Hapoel’s goal is to remain in the Premier League and that needs to be our only focus,” said Gutman.
Beersheba midfielder Maor Buzaglo is looking forward to playing against Gutman, feeling the coach didn’t afford him a fair opportunity while he guided the Israel national team.
“Gutman didn’t give me a chance and that is a fact,” said Buzaglo.
“But I don’t need to prove anything to him. I will do whatever I need to help my team and that is the most important thing.”
Beersheba can move four points clear of Maccabi Tel Aviv for at least 48 hours, with the yellow-and-blue visiting Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba, Maccabi Netanya welcomes Sakhnin, Bnei Yehuda visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Petah Tikva goes to Hapoel Ra’anana.
Late Thursday, the final State Cup round-of-16 tie between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League went into extra-time after regulation ended in a 1-1 draw in a match that ended after press time.