kashtan 298 88.
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Battered Maccabi Tel Aviv has a tough match against Maccabi Netanya in the Premier League's Matchday 9, while Jeff Tituana and Betar Jerusalem visits Ashdod SC looking to keep its two-game win streak alive.
Nir Levin, in his first game in charge of Hapoel Petah Tikva, will look to guide the team away from the danger zone in a hot derby against Maccabi Petah Tikva, which has not tasted victory in its last five league games.
In the opening fixture of the weekend Friday afternoon, Hapoel Kfar Saba hosts Bnei Sakhnin in a crucial relegation battle. Sakhnin will be looking to build upon its first win of the season, a 1-0 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, last week.
Brazilian Gabriel Lima, who was one of the main reasons behind Sakhnin's State Cup victory in 2004, has returned to the club and inked a two-month trial contract. Lima played for Bnei Yehuda last season but failed to impress and was released.
Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv travel north to take on Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth, which was humiliated 0-4 at the Teddy Stadium last week.
Tel Aviv is facing a coaching change in the near future, with Dror Kashtan about to be named the national coach for 2006. Former Hapoel Tel Aviv player and coach Moshe Sinai is the leading candidate for the job. Yossi Abuksis is expected to retire at the end of the season.
The first Petah Tikva derby of the season is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Hapoel was by far the superior team during the 1990s, but has failed to win the last eight league encounters with Maccabi.
In addition to a new coach, Hapoel Petah Tikva is the clear underdog coming into the match. Levin is expected to start all his stars, including playmaker Manor Hasan, who had a chilly relationship with fired coach Rafi Cohen.
Maccabi Petah Tikva is having trouble handling the UEFA Cup and the Premier League simultaneously; its last league win came in late September.
Earlier this week, the "Luzons" signed forward Udi Kabudi from Rishon Lezion to add depth to their bench.
Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya, which visits Bloomfield Stadium to take on Maccabi Tel Aviv, will be looking to return to its winning ways after suffering a 0-1 home defeat to Bnei Yehuda last week.
Eyal Berkovic and Giovanni Rosso are suffering from muscle cramps and are doubtful for the match. Goalkeeper Liran Strauber is suffering from a minor injury, but will be in the starting lineup for the yellow-and-blue.
Betar Jerusalem, still without a permanent coach, visits Ashdod SC with Guy Azuri and Tom Kanen on the sidelines. President Arkadi Gaydamak's first option for the job is still French Luis Fernandez, who is expected to land in Israel over the weekend.
Ashdod midfielder Eyal Almoshnino is unhappy with his role in the club, and is expected to move to Hapoel Beersheba.
The last game of Matchday 9 will be played Monday evening, when reigning champion Maccabi Haifa hosts second-placed Bnei Yehuda.
Haifa's Israeli international Idan Tal has received his much awaited French nationality and will no longer be considered a foreign player in Europe.
Tal has already played for major European clubs such as Everton and Rayo Vallecano.
Kashtan to succeed Grant
Dror Kashtan will be the next national team coach, after Avraham Grant's contract expires in July 2006. The current Hapoel Tel Aviv coach was selected in a secret meeting between Israel Football Association chairman Itche Menahem, his deputy Stern Haluba and Avi Luzon.
"I had been of the opinion that Avraham Grant should get another chance," said Luzon. "But after Grant said he doesn't want to continue, there is no doubt that Kashtan is the best Israeli coach for the job."
The appointment is to be approved by the new IFA secretariat, which will be selected on November 16.
"I'm very happy and waiting for the official appointment," Kashtan said after he heard he had been selected. "We'll start working on the national team's long-term plans in the coming days."
Ex-Betar Jerusalem coach Eli Ohana is expected to be Kashtan's assistant. Ohana gave some of his best performances as a player under Kashtan, in Betar's 1997/98 league championship season.