Betar J'lem looks to stretch league lead at Maccabi Petah Tikva

Israel's top players will try and put the disappointment of their unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign behind them this weekend.

October 19, 2007 04:57
2 minute read.

Israel's top players will try and put the disappointment of their unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign behind them this weekend when the Premier League returns to action with Matchday 6. The national team suffered a 1-0 defeat to Croatia in Zagreb on Saturday in a match it couldn't afford to lose. The defeat means the blue-and-white no longer have any chance of reaching the European Championships. Top of the table Betar Jerusalem will look to put further distance between itself and the chasing pack on Saturday when it travels to face Maccabi Petah Tikva. The reigning champion hasn't had it all its way in recent visits to Petah Tikva and will be without prolific forward's Romulo and Barak Itzhaki, who will miss the match through injury. Romulo and Itzhaki have been two of the most impressive players in the league so far this season and have combined to score half of Betar's 16 goals to date. To add to the intrigue of Saturday's match, Jerusalem will also be coming up against its former coach Yossi Mizrahi, who guided the side to the league championship last season, for the first time. "Maccabi Petah Tikva is notorios for the difficulties it gives the top sides," Betar defender Arik Benado said. "Yossi is an excellent coach who helped us to the championship last season. I hope he does well after Saturday because we're coming to win the match." Midfielder Michal Zandberg, who trained with his club in the last two weeks after being dropped from the Israel squad by coach Dror Kashtan, said: "It's fun to train with a full squad once more. "We were happy to see each other and are now looking forward to Saturday's match. "We will be missing a few players, but we have the best squad in the country so I'm not worried. Maccabi Petah Tikva is a good side and has an excellent coach. It will undoubtedly be a very tough match." Betar defeated Ashdod SC 5-0 in its last league match two weeks ago and has won four of its five matches so far this season. Petah Tikva's 1-0 loss to Maccabi Netanya in Matchday 5 ended a three match win streak that propelled it up the standings. Maccabi Haifa will be going for its third straight victory on Saturday against Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Kiryat Eliezer. Haifa recovered from its abysmal start to the season in recent weeks, defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Kfar Saba comfortably. Coach Roni Levy is expected to start with the same lineup that helped the team out of its early season crisis against a Kiryat Shmona side, which has been the surprise package of the season so far. The team's 1-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv two weeks ago was its third in five matches and put the side in third position in the table. Hapoel Tel Aviv will look to record its first win of the season at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday. Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv are the only sides in the league to have yet to win a match, but the Reds will not have it all their own way at Sakhnin. Sakhnin is the only team to take a point off Betar this season, drawing 2-2 at the Doha Stadium three weeks ago. Also on Saturday, Hapoel Kfar Saba hosts Maccabi Herzliya and Bnei Yehuda visits Ashdod SC. On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv plays Maccabi Netanya at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, with Bloomfield Stadium currently having its pitch resurfaced.

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