Maccabi Haifa 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa’s level of play has been subpar for much of this season, but the
Greens still lead the standings with four matches remaining ahead of the start
of the Premier League championship playoffs and have been boosted in recent
weeks by the return to form of star midfielder Lior Rafaelov.
winning five of its past six league matches, Haifa’s performances this season
have disappointed its fans, with the team only barely stumbling over the
finishing line in many of its victories.
But as coach Elisha Levy keeps
saying, Haifa continues to take all three points on a consistent basis and will
be a firm favorite to do so once more when it hosts Hapoel Ashkelon at Kiryat
Eliezer Stadium on Saturday.
With Yaniv Katan out injured, Rafaelov has
been the vocal leader of Haifa’s offense over the past two matches, returning to
the starting lineup after missing seven games due to injury.
scored the opener in each of Haifa’s last two wins and the farcical Ashkelon
will have its hands full trying to stop the talented midfielder on
Ashkelon has lost seven straight matches, conceding four goals
in each of its last three games. However, its real problem has been the conduct
of owner Prosper Azagi.
Azagi, currently under house arrest after being
caught by policemen driving under the influence of alcohol four weeks ago,
refused to allow coach Guy Azuri to guide the team in training over the past
couple of days as he demands that he resigns following the side’s recent poor
Azuri refuses to quit, but Azagi is not willing to sack him and
Eli Mahpud was brought in as a replacement, with his predecessor yet to
“I know exactly what Azagi’s intentions are and that is why I
refused to quit,” Azuri said after being sent away from Thursday’s training
session by the owner. “As usual with Prosper Azagi, something different happens
A red line was crossed today and I apologize to anyone who
loves Israeli soccer.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to rebound from last
week’s 4-0 loss to Ironi Kiryat Shmona last week when it hosts Maccabi Netanya
at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday.
Tel Aviv has won just once in its past
four contests, while Netanya is undefeated in its last six matches, drawing its
Betar Jerusalem, which has won only one of its last seven
encounters, hosts Hapoel Haifa at Teddy Stadium on Saturday.
Saturday, Hapoel Beersheba hosts Hapoel Acre and Kiryat Shmona visits Maccabi
Petah Tikva. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Ashdod SC and Hapoel Petah Tikva
welcomes Bnei Yehuda, with Bnei Sakhnin hosting Hapoel Ramat Gan on Monday.