Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson looks to continue his prolific form when the yellow-andblue hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, with the Iceland international taking his tally to a league-leading 14 goals with last weekend’s hat-trick..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Three months after its Premier League title challenge looked to be all but over when it trailed Hapoel Beersheba by 10 points, Maccabi Tel Aviv can move level with the defending champion when it hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday.
Maccabi’s revival since the sacking of coach Shota Arveladze in January combined with Beersheba’s decline in form, especially on the road, has seen the gap shrink to a mere three points.
Maccabi is targeting its seventh victory from the past eight league matches when it hosts Bnei Yehuda in Netanya, with Beersheba not welcoming Hapoel Kfar Saba until Monday.
New Tel Aviv coach Lito Vidigal is aiming to build on his winning start last weekend, with Maccabi defeating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-0 in his first match in charge thanks to Vidar Orn Kjartansson’s hat-trick.
Following the match against Bnei Yehuda, Maccabi visits the struggling Hapoel Ashkelon and hosts Hapoel Haifa in its final two regular season games ahead of the start of the championship playoffs. Three more wins would not only mean it will be no more than three points back of Beersheba, but will also ensure it enters the final 10-match run-in to the season with momentum on its side.
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Haifa aims to make it two wins in a row under new coach Guy Luzon when it hosts Ashdod SC.
The last, and only time, Haifa won two straight league matches this season was back in October, with the team winning just one of its last eight games under previous coach Rene Meulensteen before defeating Kfar Saba 2-0 last Saturday in Luzon’s debut.
Haifa moved up to sixth place, which leads to the championship playoffs, one point ahead of Kiryat Shmona.
Qualification for the championship playoffs will not only keep alive Haifa’s hopes of reaching European competition next season, but will also guarantee the club big pay days with additional home matches against Beersheba, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem.
Also Saturday, rock-bottom Hapoel Tel Aviv can climb out of the relegation zone with a win over Hapoel Ra’anana, while Ashkelon hosts Kiryat Shmona.
On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem visits Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Petah Tikva welcomes Hapoel Haifa.