Maccabi Haifa 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa will look to pick up where it left off before the international
break when it visits Hapoel Acre in Premier League action on Saturday
Haifa has won its last three contests and six of its last seven
league matches, but it will likely have to manage without three of its biggest
stars against a gritty Acre team.
Lior Rafaelov, who was one of Israel’s
best players in its Euro 2012 qualifying victories over Latvia and Georgia, is
suspended, while Eyal Golasa will miss the next few weeks through injury.
Captain Yaniv Katan is also a major doubt, still recovering from back spasms
which have kept him out of Haifa’s last three encounters.
“We had good
momentum before the international break, but we know what we have to do to win,”
said Haifa midfielder Gustavo Boccoli, who is expected to start Saturday’s
“We have three more very important matches until the start of the
playoffs and we can’t afford to lose our focus.”
Acre, which is fighting
for a top-six finish and a place in the championship playoffs, is unbeaten in
its last five matches and has lost just once in its past 12 home
“We realize how important this match is for them and how well they
have been playing recently,” said Boccoli, whose team needs two wins from its
next three matches to ensure it will enter the playoffs in first place. “Even
without some of our key players, we will need to find a way to beat
A win for Haifa will take it seven points clear of Hapoel Tel Aviv
for at least 48 hours, with the reigning champion not hosting Hapoel Petah Tikva
until Monday night.
The international break couldn’t have come at a
better time for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which was humbled 4- 0 by Ironi Kiryat Shmona
before falling 3-0 to Maccabi Netanya in its last league match two weeks
Yellow-and-blue coach Moti Ivanir has had time to settle his team,
but Maccabi faces a tricky match at Bnei Yehuda on Saturday.
had its sevengame unbeaten streak snapped with a 2-1 defeat to Hapoel Petah
Tikva, but Dror Kashtan’s men have shown consistent improvement over recent
months and will be looking to bounce back on Saturday.
“I hope that we
can get back on track on Saturday,” Ivanir said. “We suffered a blow with two
straight defeats and we need to stop this run.”
Betar Jerusalem has won
two of its last three contests to open a double-digit gap from the relegation
zone, but it is still reeling from being deducted one point by the Israel
Football Association disciplinary court last week for the racist chants shouted
by its fans at Hapoel Tel Aviv midfielder Salim Toama.
Betar has an ideal
opportunity to distance itself further from the bottom three on Saturday when it
visits sorry Hapoel Ashkelon, which has lost eight consecutive games, conceding
at least three goals in its last five encounters.
“The point deduction
really hurt us and it was an exaggerated punishment,” coach Roni Levy said. “We
know Ashkelon’s situation, but we are trying to focus on
“Everyone understands how significant a victory would be for
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva, Ashdod SC
visits Hapoel Ramat Gan and Hapoel Beersheba travels up north to face Ironi
Hapoel Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.