(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Tensions will be running extremely high at the Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva on
Saturday night when Betar Jerusalem visits Maccabi Petah Tikva in a Premier
League showdown with numerous implications both on and off the
Despite snapping a five-match winless streak by handing
league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona its first defeat in 26 games last Saturday,
Betar remained in the relegation zone.
Jerusalem’s 1-0 victory at Teddy
Stadium, its first since Eli Cohen replaced Yuval Naim as coach three weeks ago,
took it to 28 points, but wins by fellow strugglers Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel
Beersheba meant that the yellow-and-black remained in third-to-last position,
which would lead to demotion to the National League at the end of the
Petah Tikva is just one point and one place above Betar after
picking up just a single point from its past four matches.
unthinkable for both Betar and Petah Tikva, with Jerusalem playing in the top
flight since 1992, a year less than Petah Tikva’s streak.
As if there
wasn’t enough at stake on Saturday, Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein has ensured
both sets of fans will be highly strung for the match, attacking the Israel
Football Association and its chairman Avi Luzon during the week, claiming that
the IFA courts discriminate against Betar as they are trying to protect Petah
Tikva, previously run by Luzon and currently owned by his brother.
will be without influential midfielder Kobi Moyal on Saturday, but coach Cohen
knows there will be no excuses should his team fall to Petah Tikva.
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all know the importance of this match,” Cohen told his players on
“This match is about a whole lot more than points. Everyone can
see that Betar is under attack, but this should unify us and make us stronger
and we need to prove that no one can break us.”
Hapoel Beersheba, which
is tied on 29 points with Petah Tikva, will go for its third consecutive win
when it visits Bnei Yehuda on Saturday.
Hapoel Rishon Lezion, which still
believes it can maintain its top-flight status despite being five points from
safety, hosts Ashdod SC on Saturday in a match it simply must win.
Haifa has claimed three straight victories, but Tal Banin’s side is just three
points off the relegation zone and could find itself under intense pressure when
it visits Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday should its rivals win on
Despite suffering its first defeat since August last week,
Kiryat Shmona remained well on course to claim an historic championship. The
northerners still hold a 14-point gap over second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv
following the Reds’ 1-0 derby defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv on
Kiryat Shmona will be looking to prove that the defeat to Betar
was no more than a hiccup when it hosts Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin faces Hapoel Petah Tikva and Maccabi Netanya visits
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Hapoel Tel Aviv travels to Maccabi Haifa on
Monday, but at the moment its complete focus is on Sunday’s date with the IFA
Police arrested 24 Hapoel fans following Monday’s derby, with one
Maccabi supporter spending the night in hospital after being hit by a flare
fired from outside the stadium.
The IFA charged Hapoel with unsporting
conduct, unruly fan behavior and the entering of fans onto the field of play.
The Reds are likely to be deducted points and to be punished to host several
matches away from Bloomfield Stadium.
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