Maccabi Haifa will expect to continue its charge towards a second straight Premier League title when it hosts Hapoel Beersheba at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday.
Haifa kept its ninth consecutive clean sheet on Monday, defeating Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0 to open a 12-point gap at the top of the standings.
Goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch is closing in on Giora Antman’s all-time record for the longest stretch without conceding a goal.
Davidovitch hasn’t allowed a goal since the fifth minute of the 1-0 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv (895 minutes) on November 30, with Antman, who is currently Haifa’s goalkeeping coach, not conceding as the team’s ‘keeper for 1,093 minutes during the 1988/89 season.
However, Haifa is far more concerned with picking up three more points on Saturday to extend its lead even further ahead of the third round of matches when its margin will be halved under the league’s new format.
Beersheba has impressed occasionally this season, but Guy Azuri’s side has won just one of its last five matches. The fact that only Ahi Nazareth has conceded more goals so far will likely spell doom against the Greens, who will hope to put even more pressure on Hapoel Tel Aviv which doesn’t visit Ashdod SC until Sunday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv can leapfrog its arch-rival into second position, at least for 24 hours, with a victory over Hapoel Ra’anana at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday. Avi Nimni’s team has won four straight matches and hasn’t lost a game in two months.
Betar Jerusalem visits Bnei Yehuda on Saturday in a showdown between the league’s most disappointing teams in recent weeks.
Betar has won just one of its last six games and recorded a demoralizing 1-1 home draw with Beersheba last week.
Bnei Yehuda is still winless in 2010, recording three losses and two draws in its last five matches but will be buoyed by the return of goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba who spent a month warming the bench as Nigeria’s reserve goalie at the African Cup of Nations.
Also Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin hosts Hapoel Acre, Hapoel Ramat Gan visits Ahi Nazareth and Maccabi Netanya welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva. Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Haifa on Sunday.