maccabi tel aviv soccer.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Roni Levy comes up against his former club Maccabi Haifa on Saturday in his first match in charge of Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Levy was appointed as coach almost a month ago, but has yet to guide his new team in an official match, with the Premier League not being played in the last four weeks following a three week winter break and a one week postponement due to the security situation in the South.
The 42-year-old led Haifa to three consecutive championships in his first three seasons as coach, but left at the end of last season following two relatively unsuccessful campaigns and a growing animosity from the local fans.
"I know there's a lot of interest in this match as I recorded many achievements at Haifa," Levy said on Thursday.
"I spent almost 17 season at Haifa and I have good memories from there, but this is also my first official match in charge of Petah Tikva and I really want to win it. A victory over Maccabi Haifa will be especially sweeter."
Levy replaced Guy Azuri at Petah Tikva after the latter resigned following a poor run of results, with the team failing to win any of its last eight league matches.
"My goal is to first of all get Petah Tikva back to winning ways," Levy explained. "We're playing the best team in the country. The standings don't lie. Haifa enters the match on the back of five consecutive away victories and we will try and break this run. I have a great team here and we will try to prove that on Saturday."
Betar Jerusalem hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona at Teddy Stadium, with an off-field scandal once more overshadowing a team's match.
Club chairmen Itzik Kornfein revealed on Wednesday that a man named Daniel Azugi, supposedly an adviser to Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak, demanded to be transferred money from the club's account.
Wednesday's revelation came just a day after former chairman Moshe Dadash proclaimed himself as the club's president, apparently under Gaydamak's instruction.
Betar players will need to brush aside all the uncertainty surrounding the club's future as they go in search of just their second home victory of the season.
The two-time reigning champion has only scored in one of its last four matches and needs to begin a winning streak against Kiryat Shmona if it's to start closing on Haifa.
"I feel that we've improved a lot in training in the last three weeks, both mentally and physically," said coach Reuven Atar. "We have no intention of giving up on the season and Betar hasn't said its last word yet."
Regarding the latest saga at the club, Atar said: "It's not the coach's or the players job to get involved with what's happening in the management. Kornfein cares about the club and Dadash is also a dear man.
"We would like Arkadi to come out and speak. Everybody here is waiting to hear what he has to say."
Also Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Ashdod SC, Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan visits Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Petah Tikva faces Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium. On Monday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv.