MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa have dominated the Premier League in each of
the past two seasons, and as the current campaign progresses, it is looking more
and more likely that it will be a two-horse title race yet again in
Both teams have had their problems this season, but there is
still a very familiar look to the top of the standings as the first round of
action draws to a close this weekend.
Haifa coach Elisha Levy has come
under harsh criticism for his side’s performances, but the Greens have still
only lost once in their 14 matches to date and lead the table by two points over
the reigningchampion following Monday’s 1-0 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, the
team’s third straight win.
“We hear the criticism and we are aware of the
fact that we are not playing at the level we are expected to,” said Levy, who
will be confident of taking all three points once more when his side hosts
Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday. “We may not be playing
brilliantly, but people forget that we lost many key players over the
summer. We deserve more respect.”
Hapoel struggled to cope with
the extra workload of playing in the Champions League group stage at certain
stages of the season, but now that its continental campaign is over, it will be
expected to well and truly kick-start its title defense.
Tel Aviv hosts
Hapoel Ramat Gan at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday on just three days rest. The
Reds defeated Bnei Yehuda 1-0 on Wednesday in a repeat of the match which was
called off at halftime on Sunday because of a water-logged
Nevertheless, Tel Aviv will be a massive favorite against a Ramat
Gan team which hasn’t won a match since September.
Kiryat Shmona, which
led the standings until a couple of weeks ago, will be hoping to get back to
winning ways when it faces Betar Jerusalem at an empty Teddy Stadium on Saturday
due to past unruliness on the part of Betar fans.
Ran Ben-Shimon’s team
has not won in its last three matches and will be facing a Betar side which saw
its three-game winning streak snapped last week by a 3-0 lost at Hapoel
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel
Ashkelon visits Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Acre.
Tikva hosts Hapoel Haifa on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv visiting Hapoel
Beersheba on Monday.
MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan has steered the Greens
through a stretch in which they did not play their best soccer. Haifa sits atop
the Premier League standings with only one more week of games left until the
season’s midway point. (Adi Avishai) On TV: Saturday: Maccabi Haifa vs Maccabi
Netanya (live on Sport 2 at 4:50 p.m.); Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Ramat Gan
(live on Sport 1 at 7 p.m.); Betar Jerusalem vs Ironi Kiryat Shmona (live on
Sport 2 at 7:15 p.m.).