Betar Jerusalem 298.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem's quest for its first ever league and cup double continues on Tuesday in Nazareth.
The reigning champion has all but wrapped up its second straight league title, leading the Premier League standings by 13 points with 10 matches to play, and will be hoping to avoid a shocking exit when it visits second division Ahi Nazareth in the last 16 of the State Cup on Tuesday.
Betar, which hasn't won the cup in 19 years, only just scrapped through to the last 16 two weeks ago, defeating Bnei Sakhnin on penalties after a tight 120 minutes ended in a 1-1 draw.
"I hope that the difference in quality between the teams will be clearly evident," defender Shimon Gershon told Betar's official Web site on Monday.
"I hope that the match will be nothing like the game at Sakhnin because we had a very tough time there. The cup is very important to us and we want to win it for the fans and for ourselves."
Defenders Cristian Alvarez and Yoav Ziv are expected to be back in Betar's line-up after missing Saturday's league win over Maccabi Haifa through suspension.
"The match will be very tough," midfielder Idan Tal said. "It's difficult to guess how the match will unfold. If we start it well than it might be easy, but if we get off to a bad start we will struggle throughout. We can't underestimate Nazareth even though they play in a lower division."
Nazareth, which defeated fifth division Hapoel Hadera 4-0 in the previous round, lost 2-1 at home to Hapoel Petah Tikva in its most recent league match on Friday.
Betar/Shimshon Tel Aviv recorded one of the biggest shocks in cup history two weeks ago, defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0. The third division club hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva on Tuesday and will have its work cut out for it if it's to advance any further in the cup.
Petah Tikva, which defeated Premier League club Maccabi Herzliya 4-3 to progress to the last 16, is top of the second division and hasn't lost a league match in seven weeks.
Betar/Shimshon, on the other hand, is struggling in the third division and is just five points clear of the relegation zone. Coach Yiftah Halevi, who guided the side to the victory over Maccabi, quit his job after Betar/Shimshon lost 1-0 to Maccabi Tirat Ha'Carmel four days after the big cup win.
Rafi Cohen, who was Guy Luzon's assistant at Hapoel Tel Aviv, will guide the team for the first time against Tirat Ha'Carmel after being appointed as Halevi's replacement on Monday.
"We are the underdog once more," Betar/Shimshon striker Ofer Shitrit said on Monday.
"We played well against Maccabi and every player gave 100 percent. We will come to do our very best once more on Tuesday."
Also Tuesday, Bnei Yehuda will look to put its league troubles aside when it hosts Ironi Ramat Hasharon and Hapoel Kfar Saba visits Ironi Rishon Lezion.
Hapoel Ramat Gan, which claimed the cup in 2003, visits Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan in another last 16 tie on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Hapoel Tel Aviv will try and take another step towards becoming the first team in 69 years to win three consecutive cups with a win at Hapoel Beer Sheba.
Also Wednesday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Maccabi Haifa in the only all Premier League tie of the last 16 tie and Ironi Kiryat Shomna plays Ironi Kiryat Ata.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>