Eliran Atar 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
A season that had promised so much for Maccabi Tel Aviv just a few weeks ago is
in danger of spiraling out of control should the yellow-and-blue fail to win at
Hapoel Acre in Premier League action on Saturday night.
its league campaign with five wins in six matches, Maccabi has managed just a
single victory in its last five games, drawing twice and losing twice, including
a 1-0 defeat to Betar Jerusalem in its most recent encounter two weeks
Tel Aviv has also struggled desperately in the Europa League,
picking up just a single point from its first four group matches.
with next week’s derby showdown against Hapoel Tel Aviv quickly approaching,
anything but three points on Saturday will be disastrous to Maccabi’s title
“There is little doubt that this is a very important match for
us as we want to keep pace with the top of the standings,” coach Moti Ivanir
said on Thursday.
“Anyone who thinks that there are easy matches in this
league is very mistaken. We will need to be ready and determined to leave Acre
with a win.”
For the second straight year, coach Eli Cohen has inspired
Acre’s squad of misfits to play far better than the sum of its
Acre is just two points back of Maccabi in fourth place and brings
a five-match unbeaten streak into Saturday’s encounter.
One of Acre’s
main tasks on Saturday will be to keep Maccabi’s potentially lethal strike force
subdued for at least another match.
Maccabi has scored just a single goal
in its last three league matches, with its top scorer from last season, Eliran
Atar, not finding the back of the net since September.
Atar has faced
harsh criticism for his performances in recent weeks, but he hit back at a press
conference on Thursday.
“I was forced to come and speak,” Atar said. “I’m
here to talk about the storm the media has created. People have tried to create
a rift between Moti [Ivanir] and myself but they didn’t succeed.
know where they got the stories about me being poison in the dressing
“I have been through a tough month in the press, but the match on
Saturday can help me put it all in the past.”
A win for Maccabi will move
it tied on points with league-leader Hapoel Tel Aviv, which doesn’t host Hapoel
Ramat Hasharon at Bloomfield Stadium until Sunday.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona,
also three points back of Hapoel, visits Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, looking to
return to winning ways after having its four-match winning streak snapped with a
disappointing 1-1 home draw against Maccabi Petah Tikva.
nine-match unbeaten streak is the longest in the league, but Bnei Yehuda will
not go down without a fight on Saturday, proving as much in its draws with
Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa.
Hapoel Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin, Ashdod SC visits Hapoel Petah Tikva, Hapoel
Beersheba welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva and Maccabi Netanya plays Hapoel Rishon
Lezion, which is winless in its last nine.
Betar Jerusalem hosts its
first match at newly-renovated Teddy Stadium on Monday when Maccabi Haifa visits