israeli soccer 88.
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Reigning Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa suffered its first loss of the season last week against Hapoel Petah Tikva, but is still enjoying a 15-point cushion on the top of the standings and remains on course for a historic three-peat.
On the other hand, the second-place race is heating up. Bnei Yehuda has joined Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv, thanks to an unbeaten four game run.
The bottom of the table continues to be congested with as many as five teams dangerously close to the red line, including Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Kfar Saba still fighting hard to save their respective seasons.
Eli Ohana will make his league debut as Hapoel Kfar Saba coach Friday afternoon when his team travels north to take on 10th-place Bnei Sakhnin at Doha Stadium.
Sakhnin goalkeeper Meir Cohen is suffering from a bruised ribcage and is doubtful for the crucial battle. Cohen has not yet rejoined training and will be reevaluated again prior to the game.
Maccabi Petah Tikva is going through a horrible domestic campaign. The "Luzons" are now below the red line, after earning only three points from the last seven fixtures.
Petah Tikva will face another uphill task this weekend when it faces in-form Hapoel in what promises to be another hot and emotional derby. Hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva is expecting a sellout crowd with around 5,000 Hapoel fans expected to show up for the game.
Much more than prestige is at stake as Nir Levin's team has yet to ensure itself another season in the top division, and only six points separate it from its intracity rival.
Maccabi Petah Tikva has signed Cameroonian international Patrick Suffo in order to bolster its weak attack. The former Nantes striker has a controversial record as he once assaulted a referee and is considered a problematic teammate.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Yehuda at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and will do its best to rebound from last weeks 3-1 shock loss to Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Nir Davidovitch has turned down a lucrative three-year contract extension offer from Haifa and it seems like the veteran goalkeeper is on his way to Betar Jerusalem. Youngster Tom Al-Madon is expected to take over starting duties following the surprising development.
Ton Caanen's Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to build on last week's 2-0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin as it takes on Maccabi Netanya at "The Box."
The Dutch coach has also launched his rebuilding project and made three major signings already. Nigerian striker Henry Makinwa, Georgian Giorgi Demetradze and Albanian Elvin Beqiri have all officially joined the yellow-and-blue.
Caanen will likely be without Eyal Berkovic, who is suffering from flu-like symptoms. Liran Cohen is expected to replace the veteran midfielder in the starting lineup.
Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv faces lowly Hapoel Upper Nazareth at Bloomfield Stadium in a game that can solidify its place in second.
The Tel Aviv outfit is in deep turmoil as the current management has retired and Lev Leviev intends to take active control of the club only from next season. At this moment there is no official in charge of the club, which is causing lot of unrest amongst the team's staff and players.
The last game of Matchday 20 is scheduled for Sunday evening as Luis Fernandez's Betar Jerusalem hosts Ashdod SC at Teddy Stadium.
New signing David Aganzo has started training with the yellow-and-black but is not expected to dress up for the game. Maor Melikson will be back in the starting lineup after missing Betar's last league game because of a one-game suspension.