Greens, Reds are favorites as 1st round ends

Levy wants ‘more respect’; Netanya visits Kiryat Eliezer; Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan

December 17, 2010 03:55
2 minute read.
Maccabi Haifa captain Yaniv Katan

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 2010/11.

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 pitch.

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 Acre.

Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Ashkelon visits Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Acre.

Hapoel Petah 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.).

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