The Israeli soccer scene is heating up for the winter, with a big name from the business world poised to enter the local swamp and make his presence felt with his financial resources.
Following the announcement this week of a deal in which Africa Israel chairman Lev Leviev would purchase Hapoel Tel Aviv, Matchday 13 of the Premier League will be played this weekend.
Betar Jerusalem hosts low-lying Maccabi Netanya hoping to collect all three points and take over second place in the league, at least until the Tel Aviv derby on Sunday.
Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa faces another stern test in the form of Maccabi Petah Tikva, after Bnei Sakhnin managed to take away the first points from the greens last week in a dramatic 2-2 draw.
Friday afternoon's fixture will feature a mid-table clash as Nir Levin's Hapoel Petah Tikva travels north to take on Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth.
Ivanir has been mentioned as a leading candidate to take over the reins at Maccabi Tel Aviv next week, and this could turn out to be his last match as Nazareth coach.
Betar Jerusalem hosts Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium in a game that may prove decisive in the yellow-and-blacks' chase for second place.
Lens midfielder Jerome Leroy, who landed in Israel on Wednesday, is expected to officially sign with Betar over the weekend and start training with the club next week.
Atar's first choice goalkeeper, Avi Peretz, is suffering from a calf strain and is doubtful for the game. Alen Masudi will be back in the starting lineup after missing last week's match due to a suspension.
Ashdod SC will look to extend its two-game winning streak against Abbas Suan and Bnei Sakhnin, which is desperate for points in order to escape the relegation zone.
Sakhnin coach Lufa Kadosh has strengthened his defense by signing left back Shuki Nagar from Maccabi Tel Aviv. "I have not played for a long time and that's why I made this move," Nagar told reporters. "I hope I can regain my form and help Bnei Sakhnin this season."
Maccabi Haifa travels south to play another tricky away match against Maccabi Petah Tikva, which is coming off a 1-0 win against Maccabi Netanya last week at "The Box."
Veteran full back Adoram Keisi has inked a contract extension with the greens, which will keep him in the club through the 2006/07 season.
Last-place Hapoel Kfar Saba faces another uphill battle when it hosts Bnei Yehuda, and is expected to provide little resistance to the in-form visitors.
Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium for the second derby of the season in the Matchday 13 closer.
Eli Driks is expected to be on the sidelines for the yellow-and-blue after Nir Klinger resigned earlier this week.
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