Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Lito Vidigal insists his team is only focused on Saturday’s game against Maccabi Petah Tikva and not thinking about leader Hapoel Beersheba, which holds a six-point gap atop the Premier League..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv has done little wrong over recent months, but it still finds itself with a mountain to climb as it aims to overhaul Hapoel Beersheba at the summit of the Premier League standings.
Maccabi has won eight of its last nine matches, picking up 34 of a possible 39 points from its past 13 games. But Tel Aviv’s only defeat since the 1-0 loss to Beitar Jerusalem at the beginning of January after which coach Shota Arveladze was sacked came two weeks ago against Beersheba, which has picked up 22 of 24 points from eight games since falling to Maccabi over two months ago.
The leaders will meet one more time this season at the end of April, with each team having three more matches to try and improve its position until that crucial showdown in Netanya.
Maccabi is hoping to put a little pressure on Beersheba by reducing the gap to three points for at least 48 hours with a win over Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday, with the reigning champion not hosting Beitar Jerusalem until Monday.
“All of the games are very difficult and this is how we are approaching each match. The players made last week’s win over Maccabi Haifa look easy but it was a very tough game,” said Maccabi coach Lito Vidigal. “We have now been working together for a month and a half to two months and we are getting to know each other better. Maccabi Petah Tikva is a very good team but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We respect the opponent but we have to play well and take the three points.”
Only two matches will take place on Saturday, with the teams in the relegation playoffs on a break until next weekend.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday, with both sides in desperate need of a win in the battle for Europa League qualification.
Despite losing four matches in a row, Petah Tikva still sits in third place ahead of Saturday’s game against Tel Aviv, but it leads Beitar Jerusalem by only two points, with Sakhnin four points further back and Haifa one point behind Sakhnin.
The team to finish in third place is guaranteed a place in the Europa League qualifiers next season, while fourth position will also be good enough for continental qualification should Maccabi Tel Aviv defeat Bnei Yehuda in the State Cup final next month and finish in the top three as expected.