betar jerusalem 298.88.
(photo credit: www.beitar-jerusalem.net)
Betar Jerusalem travelled to Tiberias on Saturday for a mini training camp to prepare for Sunday's clash with arch rival Bnei Sakhnin.
The Jerusalem side currently heads the Israeli Premier League, having taken a maximum nine points from its first three games and is expected to stretch its lead over second placed Hapoel Kfar Saba with a win against Sakhnin.
Sakhnin was a candidate for relegation this season but, since being promoted from the National League in May, the team from the Galilee has surprised critics by picking up seven points from its first three league games, including a 1-0 win over Maccabi Haifa, and is currently in fifth position with a game in hand.
The intense rivalry between the two sets of supporters, fuelled largely by anti-Arab sentiment amongst sections of the Betar fan base, means the fixture is always surrounded by heightened tension. This will be the first time the teams have played each other in the league since March 2003 when Betar left the Doha Stadium with a 3-0 win.
The fans have clashed in the past but it is hoped an increased security presence of around 500 personel will prevent any violence.
Betar leftback Yoav Ziv said that, despite the hype, the team was trying to treat the match like any other.
"The preparation before Sakhnin has been like it has been before any match, although there is a little more tension. Of course we want to win this match more than any other," Ziv told the official Betar Jerusalem Web Site. "We will come prepared and with the help of God return with three points."
Commenting on previous years' matches between the clubs, Ziv added: "I have good memories from Doha, but of course my memories of what surrounded the games are not as nice. I am sure that if the security keeps the groups of fans separated there won't be anything to worry about."
Fan favorite, midfielder Aviram Bruchian, is expected to take his place in the starting line up for the yellow and black, ahead of Gal Alberman and Milovan Mirosevic.
The 4,500 tickets for the game were sold out last week.
Sakhnin coach Elisha Levy is not expected to change his team for the Betar game, with Maor Buzaglo likely to start alongside Russian Ilya Yavroyan.
Levy told reporters on Saturday that he expects a tough game but believes his team can get a result. "It isn't going to be easy as Betar is an excellent team, but I hope it also won't be easy for them. We are playing at home with a strong crowd and I hope we will be able to take the game. We are a good team and on Sunday we have an opportunity to show this to everybody."
Meanwhile, Betar's Omri Afek is reported to be on his way out of the club, with a return to Hapoel Tel Aviv a distinct possibility. Last week Afek told Israeli media of his concern over not being given a place in coach Itzhak Schum's starting line up, despite scoring twice in the Toto Cup.
On TV: Bnei Sakhnin vs Betar (live at 8:50p.m. on Channel 10)