Bnei Yehuda's championship credentials will be under close scrutiny when it hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday evening.
After 10 matches, Bnei Yehuda finds itself tied on 21 points with secondplaced Hapoel, trailing Eli Gutman's men only on goal differential. Guy Luzon's team has won its last two matches and has a perfect record in its four matches to date at Bloomfield.
However, only two of Bnei Yehuda's 10 league matches so far were against top-5 teams, and the side from south Tel Aviv failed to win either such encounter; Bnei Yehuda drew 0-0 with Maccabi Tel Aviv and lost 1-0 to Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.
Nevertheless, Bnei Yehuda can prove on Saturday that it truly deserves to be regarded as a title contender with a win over in-form Hapoel.
Tel Aviv has won four straight league matches, thrashing Hapoel Petah Tikva 71 last weekend. The team has also been red-hot in continental play, winning three of four Europa League group matches to move within touching distance of advancing to the round of 32. Hapoel continues its European campaign on Wednesday when its visits Celtic in Glasgow.
With Maccabi Haifa not visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv until Monday night, Hapoel finally has a chance to put the perfect defending champion under a little pressure by closing the gap to six points with a win on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday in what is expected to be an especially heated derby match. Both clubs replaced their coaches last weekend following disappointing starts to the season, with both Hapoel and Maccabi only winning two of their first 10 matches.
Shavit Elimelech was named as Hapoel coach after Danny Niron resigned following last Saturday's drubbing at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv. Roni Levy left Maccabi after the 2-1 home defeat to Bnei Sakhnin, with Freddy David hired in his place.
Betar Jerusalem travels to face Ashdod SC on Saturday, looking to put an end to its recent slump. Itzhak Schum's team has won just one of its last four matches and only managed a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Acre at home last week.
Ashdod is just two points behind Betar and enters Saturday's match on the back of its first win in more than two months, a 1-0 victory at Maccabi Netanya.
Also Saturday, Netanya visits Ahi Nazareth, Bnei Sakhnin hosts Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Haifa welcomes Hapoel Ramat Gan. On Sunday, Hapoel Acre hosts Hapoel Ra'anana.
On TV: Saturday: Bnei Sakhnin vs Hapoel Beersheba (live on Sport 1 at 5 p.m.); Ashdod SC vs Betar Jerusalem (live on Sport 2 at 7 p.m.); Bnei Yehuda vs Hapoel Tel Aviv (live on Sport 1 at 7:20 p.m.)
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