Clubs focused on race for survival

No less than seven teams are entangled in a complicated relegation battle.

Survival is the name of the game as the second round of the Premier League approaches its end with no less than seven teams entangled in a complicated relegation battle. Despite Maccabi Haifa returning to winning ways last week and solidifying its 15-point lead at the top of the table, the fight for second place is still intriguing, with at least three teams involved in the chase. Betar Jerusalem will try to improve on last week's lackluster performance against Ashdod SC as it faces Nir Levin's Hapoel Petah Tikva, which will be looking to rebound from last week's frustrating derby defeat. Betar's French midfielder Jerome Leroy is suffering from muscle cramps and is doubtful for the yellow-and-black. Manager Luis Fernandez might also be without Omri Afek, who has aggravated his hip injury and has not trained with the team in the last few days. Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv travels south to take on red-hot Ashdod SC, which stunned Betar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium last week. Upper Nazareth hosts Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba in today's afternoon fixture (3:30 p.m. on Sport 5+) and will be looking to return to the safety of the top half of the league table. Fourth-place Bnei Yehuda takes on Maccabi Petah Tikva in a game that means a lot to the hosts. Nitzan Shirazi's oranges will be looking to keep its two-game winning streak alive and close the gap from second-place Hapoel Tel Aviv. Alain Masudi and Maccabi Netanya host eleventh-place Bnei Sakhnin at The Box, hoping to keep its distance from the bottom of the table. Ton Caanen and Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to erase last week's humiliation at the hands of Maccabi Netanya, when they host reigning champion and archrival Maccabi Haifa on Sunday evening (8:50 p.m., Channel 10). Caanen will have his work cut out for him as many key first-team players, including Giovanni Rosso, Avi Nimni, Avi Strul, Moshe Mishaelof and Salem Abu-Siam, are injured and doubtful for the game. Haifa to play Hap PT in National Cup The National Cup Pre-Quarterfinals draw was held at the IFA offices on Wednesday evening and produced two mouth-watering prospects. Maccabi Haifa received the toughest opponent when Hapoel Petah Tikva was drawn against it. Maccabi Netanya also will face tough opposition in Maccabi Petah Tikva. Cup holder Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Lod, while Betar Jerusalem takes on Ironi Kiryat Ata at Teddy Stadium. The games will be held on the 21st and 22nd this month.