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(photo credit: (Asaf Kliger))
Three days after advancing to the State Cup semifinals, Maccabi Haifa can take another important step towards clinching what would be just its second Premier League and cup double in club history, and its first since 1991, when it hosts Maccabi Netanya at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday night.
The Greens dominated Hapoel Haifa in a 3-1 victory on their way to the cup semis on Wednesday, and can move five points clear of Hapoel Tel Aviv for at least 48 hours with a win over the in-form Netanya.
Haifa could only manage a 1-1 draw at Netanya in its final regular season match on Sunday, bringing Hapoel Tel Aviv to within just two points of the league leader ahead of the start of the championship playoffs.
However, Haifa got back on track against its cross-town rival on Wednesday, and with just five more matches to go until the end of the league season – and the bitter experience of last year still fresh in its mind – it knows it can’t afford to slip up on Saturday.
Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Yehuda in its first playoff match on Monday, with the top two to face off at Kiryat Eliezer in what could well turn out to be the title decider next Saturday.
Haifa’s draw at Netanya five days ago snapped its five-match winning streak and Reuven Atar’s team will be tough to crack once more on Saturday.
Netanya is unbeaten in its last 10 league matches and also advanced to the cup semis on Wednesday with a penalty shootout victory over Ashdod SC.
Also in the championship playoffs, Maccabi Tel Aviv – which has lost four of its last five matches – hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
After missing out on the mid-table playoffs despite beating Kiryat
Shmona last week, Betar Jerusalem continues its fight for top-flight
survival on Saturday when it hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Gan.
has won three ina row at Teddy Stadium and will be looking to rebound
from its heartbreaking midweek cup exit at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv
following a controversial 89th minute penalty by former Jerusalem
striker Toto Tamuz.
Following the point-halving, Betar has just a
six-point gap over the relegation zone and could find itself in serious
trouble if it doesn’t beat Ramat Gan.
Also in the relegation playoffs, Hapoel Petah Tikva welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ashkelon visits Ashdod SC.
In the mid-table playoffs, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Acre visits Maccabi Petah Tikva.