Maccabi Haifa on brink of third straigh soccer league title

Maccabi Haifa has dominated the Premier League again this season.

By SHARON SOLOMON
April 14, 2006 02:44
2 minute read.

Maccabi Haifa has dominated the Premier League again this season and is just one win away from capturing its third-straight league championship and fourth in five seasons. The greens have been doing it on offense, utilizing a potent attack that is No. 1 in the league with 54 goals from 28 matches. Haifa can sew up a domestic double this weekend as it travels south to Ashdod. Hapoel Tel Aviv has started its preparations for the coming season, after securing a spot in Europe. Newly appointed coach Yitzhak Schum has expressed interest in former club stars Salim Toema, Pini Balili and Omri Afek. The trio, once nicknamed "Kashtan's babies," starred in Hapoel's last championship season (99/00), and also was dominant in the club's impressive UEFA Cup run, which included wins over European powerhouses Chelsea and AC Milan. The opening Matchday 29 fixture is Friday, when Hapoel Petah Tikva and Maccabi Petah Tikva battle in what promises to be another emotionally-charged derby, with Hapoel desperate to win to escape the relegation zone. Hapoel Petah Tikva coach Nir Levin is expected to be on the sideline as usual, despite mourning the death of his mother, who passed away earlier this week. Star striker Toto Tamuz is expected to dress up for the game even though he is suffering from a nagging leg injury. Around 2,000 optimistic Maccabi Haifa fans are expected to travel to Ashdod to be on hand if the visitors clinch the title. Haifa coach Roni Levy will have to manage without top goalscorer Roberto Colautti, who has not been able to train lately due to a hip injury. Shlomi Arbitman is also injured and has been declared unfit by the team doctors. Bnei Sakhnin is facing hard times, with last week's 3-0 loss to Ashdod SC worsening its condition at the bottom of the standings. But Shiye Faigenbaum's team will have another chance to salvage its season when it takes on struggling Upper Nazareth in a head-to-head relegation battle. Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth has not won in its last seven games and another loss would push the team below the red line with four matches left. Veteran midfielder Oren Zeituni is injured and won't be available. The police will have a 300-man force on hand to secure the game, in addition to 120 private security guards who will also patrol the premises. Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba looks to keep its unbeaten streak alive and climb up to 10th place when it faces Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium. Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv meets Maccabi Netanya at "The Box" and will be looking to keep the momentum alive from its convincing derby victory last week. Netanya president Asher Alon announced earlier this week that the club would be sold to German tycoon Daniel Yamer by the end of the season. Netanya star Alain Masudi has sustained a rib injury in training and is doubtful for the game. Tal Banin also is lacking match fitness, but is expected to be in Reuven Atar's starting eleven. Ton Caanen and Maccabi Tel Aviv host Luis Fernandez's Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium in the Matchday 29 finale on Sunday evening. The yellow-and-black have reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Shimon Gershon to bring the Hapoel Tel Aviv captain to Betar after his current contract runs out this summer.


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