The second round of the Premier League will be completed over the weekend, with Maccabi Haifa a virtual lock for a third straight championship and fifth in six years, a raging battle for second place and a spot in next season's UEFA Cup, and relegation nearly assured for Hapoel Kfar Saba and threatening a few other teams.
With third-place Betar Jerusalem and fourth-place Bnei Yehuda facing each other on Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hopes to solidify its place in second.
Betar's French star, Jerome Leroy, resumed light training earlier in the week but aggravated his injury and might miss his second straight game.
Bnei Sakhnin hosts Upper Nazareth on Friday afternoon in a crucial match that will directly affect the relegation scenario. A home loss can complicate Sakhnin's position below the red line. But the sporting prospect of the game has been overshadowed by political implications.
The Denmark cartoon saga that is making waves in the Arab world has found its way into the local soccer scene. The police have announced that they will increase their presence at Doha Stadium following threats from Bnei Sakhnin fans that Denmark flags would be burned during the game. The city of Sakhnin has been plagued with similar demonstrations throughout the week.
Maccabi Haifa is enjoying its best season in recent years as it stays on course for a historic three-peat and also with a chance to complete a domestic triple.
The greens host Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer and should not have a problem collecting all three points.
Atar will be without his opening marksman Papi Kimoto, who left for Congo last night to attend the funeral for his brother, who was killed in a car accident on Thursday.
Ton Caanen's Maccabi Tel Aviv faces a tough away fixture against Maccabi Petah Tikva, which will be hungry for a win in order to escape 10th place in its battle to avoid relegation.
Maccabi captain Avi Nimni will be out of action for about a month after he had an operation in Belgium to help with a chronic knee problem. Veteran playmaker Eyal Berkovic is expected to see more playing time in Nimni's absence.
Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium, hoping to rebound from Wednesday's Toto Cup semifinal exit and fortify its place in the standings.
Kashtan intends to bring back Yossi Abuksis and Baruch Dego into the starting lineup, a move that will demote Felix Obuka and Omer Peretz to the bench following their poor performance against Haifa earlier this week.
Petah Tikva coach Nir Levin also will be making a major change in attack, with star forward Manor Hasan making way for youngster Idan Srur in the left wing position.
Ashdod SC takes on last-place Hapoel Kfar Saba, hoping to build on the impressive 4-2 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in their Toto Cup semifinal and increase its distance from the bottom of the standings.
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