(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv Website)
After years of humiliation, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to regain its lost
pride when it visits Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday
It has been more than two-and-a-half years since Maccabi last
defeated Hapoel in a league derby, with only Dor Malul surviving from the
yellow-and-blue team which recorded the 3-1 win on March 9, 2008.
has lost four and drawn two of the six derby matches since, and after seeing its
arch-rival claim the league and cup double last season, went on a spending spree
over recent months in order to bring the team back on-par with
The yellow-and-blue completely rebuilt its squad over the summer
and has got its campaign off to an impressive start, collecting 12 of a possible
15 points, winning its last four matches after losing its opener to Maccabi
Hapoel, on the other hand, has experienced an erratic campaign so
far, winning just two of its first five encounters while already losing twice,
double the amount of defeats it suffered throughout all of last
However, current form isn’t always all that significant when it
comes to derby showdowns, and Hapoel’s players know their poor start to the
season will be completely forgotten with a victory on Saturday
“Everyone understands the significance of this match,” coach Eli
Gutman said. “Maccabi is a good team, but we will be focusing on
I believe that in the derby there is no favorite and that the
calm and composed team will eventually be the one to prevail.”
midfielder Gili Vermut believes his team will have a slight
“Maccabi will not be the favorites,” he said on Thursday. “The
match will be tightly balanced, but the fact we are the home team gives us an
Vermut’s Israel teammate, Itai Shechter, who was the national
team’s best player in its 2-1 losses to Croatia and Greece in Euro 2012
qualifying over the last week, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think we
have a 50 percent chance of winning,” said Shechter, who scored the consolation
goal in each of Israel’s recent defeats. “I believe in our team and hopefully we
Maccabi has tried to maintain a low profile ahead of the derby,
with its coaches and players not speaking to the media.
manager Avi Nimni has also got a full squad to pick from, and he has tried to
take the pressure off his players by telling them to approach the match the way
they do any other league encounter.
However, the importance of Saturday’s
contest will not be lost on any of the players and the fixture is expected to be
as fiery as ever.\ Meanwhile, Hapoel Petah Tikva is scheduled to host Maccabi
Petah Tikva at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
However, the management of
the dysfunctional Hapoel announced on Thursday that the team will not show-up
for the match after the Israel Football Association High Court rejected the
club’s request to postpone the suspension of midfielder Jonathan Assous on
Nevertheless, it seems unlikely Hapoel will follow through with
its threat as it could face automatic relegation from the Premier League should
it deliberately fail to turn-up for the match.
League-leader Ironi Kiryat
Shmona visits Hapoel Haifa on Saturday, looking to maintain its dream start to
the season by claiming a fifth win in six matches.
Maccabi Haifa, the
league’s only other unbeaten team, travels to rock-bottom Bnei
Also Saturday, Hapoel Ramat Gan hosts Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel
Ashkelon welcomes Hapoel Acre. Ashdod SC hosts Hapoel Beersheba on Sunday, with
Betar Jerusalem visiting Bnei Yehuda on Monday.