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hapoel celebrate 298.88.(Photo by: AP [file])
UEFA Cup representatives struggling in the league
Allon Sinai
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv's demanding continental matches have taken their toll on the clubs' domestic form.
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv must start winning again in the Premier League beginning Saturday evening to begin their return to the top of the standings. The teams have both brought pride to Israeli soccer with their successful UEFA Cup runs, but the demanding continental matches have taken their toll on the clubs' domestic form. Haifa has won only one of its last seven Premier League matches and Tel Aviv has lost two in a row, leaving the teams nine and seven points, respectively, behind league leader Betar Jerusalem. Haifa hosts Maccabi Netanya on Saturday and is keen to avenge its 3-1 defeat in Matchday 1. Haifa's loss to Netanya set the tone for the club's league campaign and it hopes to put an end to its awful spell. Hapoel Tel Aviv plays Czech club Mlada Boleslav in the UEFA Cup on Wednesday and only needs a draw to advance. However, European aspirations will need to take a back seat on Saturday when it hosts city rival Bnei Yehuda. Both teams want to snap their losing streaks, with each club dropping its last two league games. Bnei Yehuda has failed to win in its last six matches and another failure to pick up points could drop it further down the standings. All three teams below Bnei Yehuda play at home on Saturday. Rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva is still searching for its second victory of the season and will face fifth-place Hapoel Kfar Saba. Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan plays second-place Maccabi Petah Tikva and will be pleased with any result that ends the visitors' four-match winning streak. Maccabi Herzliya climbed out of the relegation zone with its second victory of the season last week. It hosts third-place Ashdod SC, which is favored to win its fourth straight and keep pace with the top of the standings. Betar Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Sunday in the final game of Matchday 12.
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