The Premier League returns to action this weekend after the international break with many intriguing fixtures in store.
Although Sunday's feature match between rivals Betar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin may steal the headlines, games pitting Hapoel Tel Aviv against Maccabi Petah Tikva, and Ashdod SC against unstable Maccabi Tel Aviv could also deliver excitement on Saturday.
Hapoel Upper Nazareth hosts Maccabi Netanya in Friday's afternoon game. Reuven Atar's Netanya will look to earn at least a point to build on its previous victory over Hapoel Kfar Saba. Netanya's talented midfielder, Kobi Hasan, will be out for about two months after twisting his right knee in practice. Hasan will undergo intensive physiotherapy to heal the partial tear in his knee cartilage.
On Saturday, Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv and UEFA Cup hopeful Maccabi Petah Tikva face off at Bloomfield Stadium. Coach Kashtan is planning a massive shake-up in his starting line-up to make room for Yossi Abukasis, who has recovered from a nagging injury that has bothered him all summer. Yigal Antebi and Asi Domb will likely start on the bench after their disappointing performances in previous weeks.
Ashdod hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv in a do-or-die game for the yellow-and-blue. Tel Aviv was held to a goalless draw by Upper Nazareth in its last home match and another unconvincing performance will probably put Nir Klinger's high-priced side out of this season's championship race earlier than expected. Klinger will be fielding his strongest lineup, will all of this year's new signings, including dynamic Brazilian striker, Jose Duarte, who could make his league debut after suffering a serious ankle strain at the start of the season.
Most of the tickets have already been sold and Ashdod is expecting a packed stadium for the game. The team's Ghanian international goalkeeper, Sammy Adjei, was in the spotlight this week, since he will be taking part in the upcoming World Cup.
Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa, which has a perfect record in the league so far, will travel south to take on the unpredictable Kfar Saba. Haifa's Argentinean marksman, Roberto Colautti is listed as doubtful for the fixture and he will have to pass a fitness test to be included in the squad.
Kfar Saba's top stars Roberto Caravalio, Emanuel Papu and Avi Tikva are all suffering from minor injuries, but are expected to take part in this important game.
In another promising fixture, Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts talented Bnei Yehuda.
Earlier this week, Petah Tikva signed defender Ravid Gazal, who failed to find his place in Roni Levi's Maccabi Haifa. Teenage sensation Toto Tamuz, who has already scored three times in his first two league appearances, will continue to lead the blues in attack.
Bnei Yehuda coach, Nitzan Shirazi has many options up front, with youngster Moshe Biton returning from suspension and new signing Eli Biton making an impressive debut in the team's last game.
The last game of Matchday 5 will be on Sunday with Betar Jerusalem hosting Abas Suan and Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium.
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