maccabi tel aviv 88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
The Israeli Premier League pre-New Year round will be held this weekend, with all teams willing to make amends prior to the upcoming holiday break next week.
Only three games will be held on Saturday, as UEFA Cup participants Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv play in postponed fixtures on Sunday and Monday respectably. Joint leagueleaders Hapoel Kfar Saba and Betar Jerusalem face off on Sunday evening.
Daniel Jammer's Maccabi Netanya and highly disappointing Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is still pointless this season, clash at "The Box" in Saturday's featured game. The yellow-and-blue has lost both of its games in the opening rounds, with the latest setback coming at the hands of Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba at Bloomfield.
Netanya will be looking to claim its second major scrap of its domestic campaign, after stunning champion Maccabi Haifa 3-1 in the season opener.
Coach Eli Gutman is expected to field his strongest lineup, including former Maccabi stars Liran Strauber, Ben Haim and Avi Strul, who all joined the team after Eyal Berkovic was appointed manager at the end of last season.
"We won't settle for a draw," Gutman told reporters ahead of the game. "Besides Maccabi Haifa and Betar Jerusalem, we can contend as equals with any team in the Premier League. We just have to concentrate on our game and produce a spirited effort."
Hapoel Petah Tikva will be hoping to build on last week's surprise draw against Maccabi Netanya, as it travels south to take on Yossi Mizrahi's Ashdod SC in what is a potential relegation battle.
Ashdod will field new signing Manor Hassan, who has spent most of his career with Hapoel Petah Tikva. The veteran playmaker was released by the blues last month and will now team up with Shai Holtzman, in an attempt to earn his new team all three points.
Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda has gone though a rough summer. Despite qualifying for the UEFA Cup, the oranges failed to impress and the poor form has carried on to the team's league games.
Bnei Yehuda suffered a traumatic 3-2 loss to newcomer Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan last week, and will try to rectify its mistakes against Reuven Atar's last-placed Maccabi Herzliya in a seemingly easy home fixture.
On Sunday, Eli Ohana leads Hapoel Kfar Saba against his former team Betar Jerusalem, with first place in the league table awaiting the winner of the game. Both teams possess a perfect record going into the matchup, though Kfar Saba has the edge due to a superior goal difference.
Kfar Saba's Levita Stadium has not yet been authorized for the game, as the team has refused to comply with the 400-man security force demand set by the police officials. The greens are also considering re-locating the game to the national stadium in Ramat Gan, which can drastically increase its revenue from the game.
Defending champion Maccabi Haifa takes on Maccabi Petah Tikva in a tough away fixture on Sunday evening, while Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts newcomer Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan on Monday.