Soccer photo 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The idiosyncrasies of the Premier League’s format are set to make for a very
interesting weekend of soccer.
With everyone to have their point totals
halved prior to the playoffs getting under way next week, each of the league’s
clubs will have plenty to play for on Saturday and Sunday.
playoffs were to begin as things currently stand, Maccabi Haifa would hold a
four-point margin over Hapoel Tel Aviv at the top of the league
However, should the reigning champion defeat rock-bottom
Hapoel Ramat Gan at Winter Stadium as expected on Saturday, it is guaranteed to
enter the playoffs no more than three points behind Haifa, even if the Greens
win at Maccabi Netanya on Sunday.
The fact that point totals will be
rounded up after being halved is set to play into Tel Aviv’s hands, with Haifa
to suffer from the system for a second straight season.
Haifa also took a
three-point gap into last year’s championship playoffs, but ended up losing the
title in the final minutes of the campaign.
However, unlike last season,
Haifa seems to be improving as the season progresses, while Tel Aviv is playing
perhaps its worst soccer of the campaign.
While Haifa has won five
straight matches, Hapoel has taken all three points only twice in its last five
contests and discovered earlier this week that it will have to close the season
without injured star-striker Itai Shechter.
“It hurts me that I will not
be able to help my team this season,” said Shechter, who has been out with a
shoulder injury since mid-January.
“I could have helped Hapoel in the
run-in, but I trust my friends and believe they will be able to get the job
done. It will be very difficult as Haifa is experiencing an excellent period
while we are struggling, but I’m hoping for a similar scenario to last
One of the most sought-after positions in the table will be 10th
Four teams are battling for 10th, which leads to the mid-table
playoffs and ensures its eventual occupant another season of top-flight
Betar Jerusalem currently holds the much-coveted position and has
its fate in its own hands when it visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on
Betar claimed its third straight victory at Teddy Stadium last
week, but it hasn’t won on the road in almost three months.
currently separates Betar and 11th-placed Hapoel Beersheba is a single goal,
meaning that should Beersheba beat Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium by
more than one goal on Saturday it could in theory leapfrog Jerusalem even if
Roni Levy’s side wins in Kiryat Shmona.
However, Beersheba has been in
dire straits in recent weeks, losing six of its past eight matches.
yellow-and-blue has also struggled recently, falling in three straight games
before drawing with Maccabi Petah Tikva last week.
With just a two-point
lead over Kiryat Shmona in the fight for third place, Tel Aviv will be just as
desperate as Beersheba for a win on Saturday.
The two other teams
battling for 10th position with Betar and Beersheba are Ashdod SC, which visits
Ironi Ashkelon on Saturday, and Hapoel Petah Tikva, which travels to Hapoel
Haifa in its first match since parting ways with coach Yuval Naim on
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre hosts Bnei Sakhnin, with Maccabi
Petah Tikva visiting Bnei Yehuda in a direct battle for a top-six finish and a
place in the championship playoffs on Sunday.