Hapoel Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Less than two weeks ago, Hapoel Tel Aviv was the firm favorite to claim the
Premier League title.
Two 1-0 losses later, and Hapoel finds itself on
the cusp of a crisis, dropping to third place in the standings, five points back
of league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Hapoel looked set to surge ahead in
the title race after recording convincing victories against both arch-rival
Maccabi Tel Aviv and reigning-champion Maccabi Haifa.
Kashtan’s team returned to its erratic ways in recent weeks, failing to hit top
form in defeats at Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Petah Tikva.
returned to guide the team on Wednesday after missing the previous week
following the death of his brother. He made his presence felt, shaking the
Hodorov training ground with his trademark screams.
Kashtan knows Hapoel
can’t afford to fail to pick up all three points when it hosts Bnei Yehuda on
Saturday, and despite Tel Aviv’s recent struggles, he will be confident a return
to Bloomfield Stadium will also result in a return to winning
Hapoel is unbeaten at home this season, winning six and drawing two
of eight matches with a combined goal difference of 21-1.
Yehuda could prove to be tough to crack on Saturday, with Yossi Abuksis’s team
wining two straight matches after going seven games without a
Kiryat Shmona will keep a close eye on happenings at Bloomfield,
but It will first be looking to take care of its own business when its visits
Maccabi Netanya on Saturday.
Ran Ben-Shimon’s side has won nine of its
past 10 matches, including its last five on the road.
Netanya was neck
and neck with Kiryat Shmona at the start of the season, but Reuven Atar’s team
has lost its way in the past couple of months, winning just once in its last
Netanya was hopeless in Monday’s 2- 1 defeat at Maccabi
Haifa, but Atar’s men handed Kiryat Shmona its only defeat of the league season
so far and a visit by the high-flying northerners might just be what Netanya’s
boys need to get their adrenaline flowing.
Atar’s first task will be to
shore up his side’s defensive play, with Netanya the only team in the league to
have conceded at least one goal in each of its 16 matches to
Maccabi Haifa was fortunate enough to meet the plummeting Netanya
just when matters threatened to spiral out of control at Kiryat Eliezer, with
coach Elisha Levy breathing a huge sigh of relief after the 2-1
Two straight league defeats – to Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel
Haifa – followed by a Europa League exit, had hundreds of Haifa fans calling for
But things have settled slightly following the win over
Netanya and a visit to Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday presents the Greens with
another opportunity for a relatively easy three points.
the resurgent Hapoel Beersheba goes for its fourth straight win when it hosts
Bnei Sakhnin, Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Rishon Lezion
welcomes Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
As if matters weren’t bad enough at Betar
Jerusalem, the club from the capital was punished by the Israel Football
Association disciplinary court on Wednesday to play its next two home matches in
front of empty stands following its fans’ unruliness in the defeat to Bnei
Betar has lost four of five games, winning only once in its past
12 matches, and it faces what is an extremely tricky tie even in the best of
times when it visits Hapoel Acre on Sunday.
The court’s ruling is
expected to cost the financially-striken Betar over NIS 1 million in lost
revenue and Jerusalem is praying its appeal will be accepted hours before it
takes the field against Acre.
Also Sunday, second-placed Ashdod SC will
have a chance to make a statement when it hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv.