Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After failing to do so in the derby last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv aims to finally officially clinch a record 20th Premier League championship when it visits second-place Hapoel Beersheba at Vasermil Stadium on Saturday night.
Maccabi only requires a draw to secure its second straight league title, currently holding a 10-point gap over Beersheba with four matches to play.
The yellow-and-blue enters the match on the back of its first losing streak of the league campaign, suffering a humbling 3-1 defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv last week after dropping to a 2-1 setback at Bnei Sakhnin.
Since beating Beersheba 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium one month ago to effectively wrap up the title, Maccabi has taken its foot off the gas, winning just one of four matches.
Beersheba entered its last meeting with Tel Aviv only five points from the summit and with a real hope of claiming its first championship since 1976.
However, Elisha Levy’s team capitulated at Bloomfield and has picked up just two total points from its past five games.
“Both teams have experienced a drop in form in recent weeks, but Beersheba is still an excellent side,” said Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa.
“We look to win every match we play, and we will not be playing for a draw. I want to clinch the championship as soon as possible.”
Beersheba needs the win to remain on course to finish in the runners-up position, with Ironi Kiryat Shmona closing to within six points thanks to a 13-match unbeaten streak.
Kiryat Shmona hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.
Maccabi Haifa welcomes Hapoel Tel Aviv to Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday, knowing it must return to winning ways to keep alive its chance of finishing in fourth place.
A fourth-place finish will secure Europa League qualification for next season should Kiryat Shmona beat Maccabi Netanya in the State Cup final on Wednesday and end the campaign among the top three as expected.
Hapoel, which holds a four-point gap over Haifa, is brimming with confidence after extending its unbeaten streak to six matches with its first derby win since November 2012 last week, while Haifa is hoping to stop the rot following five defeats in its past six games.
With each team having just two matches remaining in the relegation playoffs, the battle against demotion could already be decided on Saturday.
Maccabi Petah Tikva (27 points) and Bnei Yehuda (27) currently occupy the two spots which lead to the National League and are in real danger of already being relegated this weekend, trailing Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (30) and safety by three points.
Petah Tikva visits Ashdod SC on Saturday, while Bnei Yehuda goes to Ramat Hasharon. Also Saturday, Hapoel Ra’anana visits Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem faces Hapoel Acre.