Betar’s relegation battle continues

Hapoel Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Betar Jerusalem’s fight for survival in the Premier League faces another significant crossroads on Saturday night, when the yellow-and-black visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion.
After going winless in eight straight matches, Betar has climbed out of the relegation zone with three straight triumphs, beating second-place Ashdod SC 1-0 at Teddy Stadium last Saturday.
Betar is currently in 11th place, four points clear of the relegation zone and eight points ahead of Rishon, which is in 15th.
Rishon has fallen to just one defeat in its past six home games, but it has won just once in its last 20 matches and is in danger of losing any hope of maintaining its top-flight status should it fail to return to winning ways very soon.
Jerusalem coach Yuval Naim is expecting a fiercely contested showdown on Saturday, and despite his team’s recent rich vein of form, he understands there is still plenty of work to be done before Betar secures itself another season of Premier League soccer.
“We have gone through a mental change in recent weeks, with the additions of Dario Fernandez and Leonardo Passos Alves also making a big difference,” Naim said.
“We are playing much better, but we need to focus on the future because we haven’t secured our survival yet and are still far from reaching that target.”
After snapping its five-match winless streak with two goals in the last six minutes for a 2- 1 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa will be hoping to string together its first winning streak since November when it hosts Hapoel Beersheba on Saturday.
Also Saturday, Moshe Sinai guides Maccabi Petah Tikva for the first time when it visits Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, Maccabi Netanya hosts Hapoel Haifa, Ashdod welcomes Hapoel Acre and Bnei Sakhnin plays Bnei Yehuda.
Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Petah Tikva on Sunday, while Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s title credentials face another examination when the league-leader faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday.