soccer Maccabi Haifa 248 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Maccabi Haifa will be heavily favored to record its 10th straight victory and maintain its perfect start to the campaign when it hosts Ahi Nazareth at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday evening.
Another home win will bring the current Haifa team within one victory of the all-time record for the most consecutive wins to begin a season. The 2004/05 Haifa team and Avraham Grant's 1992/93 Maccabi Tel Aviv side jointly hold the record, winning their first 11 matches.
Despite steamrolling the rest of the league, Haifa kept just one clean-sheet in its first seven matches. However, coach Elisha Levy has been working hard on his team's biggest weakness and it is starting to pay off, with Haifa's defense not conceding in its last two encounters.
After claiming three straight victories, Nazareth has struggled desperately in its last three matches, losing to Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Beersheba by a combined goal difference of 1-9.
With Haifa expected to claim yet another win, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda can not afford to drop any further points on Saturday.
Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium and if it plays anywhere near its best should have no trouble winning a fourth consecutive league match.
Petah Tikva is fighting for its life at the bottom half of the standings, despite only losing once in its last five encounters.
Bnei Yehuda will be wary of its visit to Hapoel Ramat Gan, and not because of the pedigree of its opponent.
Since being awarded a technical 3-0 victory over Ashdod SC in its season opener, which originally ended in a 1-1 draw, Bnei Yehuda has failed to pick up all three points away from home. In its four road matches since, Guy Luzon's team has lost once and drawn three times, including draws against the lowly Hapoel Petah Tikva and Hapoel Acre.
"I refuse to underestimate any team," Bnei Yehuda coach Guy Luzon said. "Hapoel Ramat Gan has recorded some good results recently and there are no easy games in this league."
Betar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Acre at Teddy Stadium on Saturday, looking to rebound from the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Maccabi Netanya.
Since the start of October, Betar's erratic form has seen it lose one week and win the next. Itzhak Schum's team has lost three of its last five matches, but if the trend is to continue it should get the better of Acre following the Netanya debacle.
"We prepare the same for every match, whether we are facing a big team or small one," midfielder Idan Tal said.
Also Saturday, Netanya will hope to build on its recent improvement when it hosts Ashdod, while Bnei Sakhnin continues to search for its first win in more than two months when it visits Maccabi Petah Tikva.
On Sunday, Hapoel Ra'anana welcomes Hapoel Haifa, with Maccabi Tel Aviv traveling to Beersheba for Monday's encounter.
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