(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The tightest battle against relegation in recent memory will reach its climax on
Saturday night as six teams enter their final matches of the season still in
danger of being demoted from the Premier League.
Hapoel Haifa (38 points,
9 wins, 35-44 goal difference), Beitar Jerusalem (38, 9, 44-54), Hapoel
Beersheba (38, 9, 29-39), Hapoel Acre (36, 8, 38-47), Bnei Sakhnin (36, 8,
31-49) and Maccabi Netanya (35, 8, 38-47) are all facing the threat of losing
their top-flight status on Saturday.
The six sides all face each other,
with Sakhnin hosting Beitar, Acre welcoming Haifa and Netanya facing
Each team has its fate in its own hands, with a victory enough
for all six to secure their survival regardless of other
However, a draw could also be sufficient for each of the six
sides, should other scores work in their favor, with Haifa to remain in the
league even if it loses by two goals or less and Beitar to still stay up as long
as it falls by just a single goal.
There are essentially an infinite
amount of scenarios for Saturday.
Overall goal difference will act as the
first tiebreaker should two teams or more end the season with an identical point
total, with the second tiebreaker being the number of wins recorded in the
It is quite possible that the fight for survival will end up
being decided by the third tiebreaker, namely the amount of goals scored by each
team throughout the season.
Wins for Acre, Netanya and Sakhnin will
result in a four-way tie for 13th place, which will lead to the second division
at around 9:00pm on Saturday.
Around 700 policemen and 150 stewards will
be at Sakhnin for the match against Beitar, which is a potentially volatile
rivalry at the best of times, not to mention when both teams are fighting for
their Premier League lives.
Despite currently sitting in 13th place,
Netanya enters Saturday with momentum on its side, going unbeaten over its past
four matches, winning its last two.
Acre is unbeaten in its past eight
games, while Sakhnin hasn’t lost in its last six encounters.
the other hand, has won just one of its last 13 matches and a defeat to Sakhnin
by two goals or more combined with home victories for both Acre and Netanya
would see Jerusalem drop to the second division.
Also Saturday, Hapoel
Ramat Gan, which clinched relegation last week, hosts Ashdod SC.
Tel Aviv welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday afternoon in what will be an
appetizer for the official championship celebrations, which will take place at
Rabin Square from 8:30 p.m.
Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, the father of
Maccabi’s sporting director Jordi, will take part in the celebrations with his
“After 10 years it’s a big celebration for the whole team and
everybody who is with the team,” Cruyff senior said on Thursday. “I’m very happy
not only for my son but for myself.”
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa visits
Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, while Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday.