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Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba is making an impressive third-round run in the Premier League. The last-place team has only lost once in its last seven league games and is now just five points away from Upper Nazareth, which is in the desirable 10th spot.
Ohana will have his work cut out this weekend as he and his team travel to face Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium. He starred for Betar in the 1990s and built his legacy as the best striker ever to wear the yellow-and-black.
Betar has also been in good form recently, earning a draw at Bloomfield Stadium last week against a Hapoel Tel Aviv team that is also fighting to finish the season in second, and defeating league leader Maccabi Haifa at Teddy two weeks ago.
"Kfar Saba is trying to survive and we are trying to earn European qualification," Betar manager Luis Fernandez told reporters. "I respect Eli Ohana, but if we can manage to maintain our usual level of play like against Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa, we should prevail."
Star striker David Aganzo will not dress for Betar as he has collected five yellow cards and is serving a onegame suspension. Fernandez will probably opt for a fiveman midfield with Lior Asulin spearheading the attack.
Friday afternoon's fixture is a crucial bottom-of-thetable clash as Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva, with both teams desperate to escape the danger zone.
Petah Tikva has tumbled down the standings after last week's home loss to Ashdod SC and another bad result would complicate the team's situation. Coach Nir Levin will have to manage without suspended midfielders Manor Hasan and Ravid Gazal.
Bnei Sakhnin, currently 11th, will try to earn three points at "The Box" against Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya, which has escaped the relegation battle and ensured another season in the top flight.
"It's one our most crucial games," Sakhnin president Mazen Ganaim said ahead of the game. "We have to win as our condition in the league table is very critical and there is very little time to make amends."
Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv faces Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium in a secondary derby.
Yitzhak Schum has been mentioned as leading candidate to replace Kashtan over the summer. The former Panathinaikos coach is currently negotiating a contract with team management and an official announcement is expected next week.
Yossi Mizrahi's Ashdod SC will be looking to build on last week's surprise win against Hapoel Petah Tikva when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva. "The Luzons" enter the game riding an impressive three-game winning streak.
Matchday 27 comes to a close Sunday evening when Maccabi Haifa takes on Ton Caanen's Maccabi Tel Aviv. The yellow-and-blue are on a five-game winless streak, but its last victory came against Haifa.