Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Barak Itzhaki (10) celebrates with his teammates.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
The National League match between Hapoel Ashkelon and Bnei Lod, as well as most games between Jewish and Arab clubs in lower divisions, will not go ahead as scheduled this weekend due to the security situation in Israel and the heightened tensions between Jews and Arabs.
Police notified the Israel Football Association that sensitive matches in all leagues, junior and senior, amateur and professional – other than those planned to take place in the central region – are postponed to a future date, with police forces stretched to the limit. However, only one match in Israel’s two professional leagues was postponed as a result, with the showdown between Ashkelon and Lod being moved to a later date.
In the Premier League, Maccabi Tel Aviv will aim to keep hold of first place in the standings when it visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Petah Tikva set the pace in the first month of the season, winning its first four matches of the campaign.
However, it has dropped to second place after losing its past two games, falling 5-2 at Hapoel Beersheba two weeks ago which allowed Tel Aviv to move into first place for the first time this season.
The yellow-and-blue had nine players in the Israel squad which dropped to defeats to Cyprus and Belgium and failed to qualify for the Euro 2016 qualifying playoffs. Maccabi will be hoping the disappointment with the national team has no lasting effects on its players, with seven of the side’s players starting in the loss to Cyprus.
The Israel Football Association announced on Thursday that it will look into reports that several players went to a casino next to their hotel following the defeat in Brussels.
Players could face disciplinary action should the IFA determine that they broke the national team’s ethical code.
“We have some very busy weeks and challenges ahead of us,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic, whose team faces Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday. “We’ve played eight European matches, the Super Cup, national team games and plenty of others in the league and more. This is the situation we are in and we must be ready for the expectations ahead of us on the pitch. The schedule isn’t easy but we’ll put our best effort into it.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Sakhnin, Bnei Yehuda visits Hapoel Haifa, Maccabi Netanya welcomes Hapoel Kfar Saba and Hapoel Acre faces Hapoel Ra’anana.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Maccabi Haifa on Sunday, with Beitar Jerusalem to play Hapoel Beersheba at Teddy Stadium on Monday.