De Ridder represents Hap TA's failure to mount a challenge

Local Soccer: Gutman’s Reds vist Hapoel Haifa having been unable to close gap on Mac Haifa.

hot soccer player 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
hot soccer player 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Dutch-Jewish midfielder Daniel de Ridder was supposed to be the difference-maker for Hapoel Tel Aviv.
When Hapoel signed de Ridder on loan from Wigan Athletic on January 20 for a reported £180,000, it trailed reigning champion Maccabi Haifa by 10 points. However, Tel Aviv was confident of catching the league-leader as there were still some 12 matches remaining before the gap would be halved ahead of the final five-game stretch.
However, de Ridder’s fortunes over the past few months have mirrored those of his team, which has all but given up chasing down Haifa.
Hapoel is currently 11 points behind the Greens with just four more matches to be played before the Premier League is divided into three sections and the top six battle for the championship.
De Ridder lasted just 15 minutes in his Hapoel debut after a clash of heads with Haifa’s John Culma, and in the following week against Maccabi Netanya he suffered a slight tear in his right thigh quadriceps which has limited him ever since and will keep him out for at least another 10 days.
The 26-year-old, who began his career at Ajax before moving to Celta Vigo in Spain and Birmingham City, made his only start so far in that match against Netanya and has come on as a substitute on four occasions.
“I want to give 100 percent of myself to the club and the fans so we can achieve success together,” de Ridder told the Hapoel Web site. “I don’t want to return to play before I’m completely healed and aggravate my injury or not play to my full capability. With a little patience I will be able to show what I know and why Hapoel brought me in.”
De Ridder’s absence combined with the departure of Bibras Natcho to Russian champion Rubin Kazan has left Hapoel without a natural creative midfielder in the center of the pitch.
However, even that will not be an excuse if the team fails to take all three points at Hapoel Haifa on Saturday.
Tel Aviv thrashed Bnei Yehuda 4-0 last week, the ninth time this season it has scored four goals or more in a league match, while Haifa lost 3-2 at Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Meanwhile, city rival Maccabi Tel Aviv will hope to end its current winless streak when it hosts Netanya on Saturday.
Tel Aviv hasn’t won a match in over a month, losing three of its last four encounters, including a 1-0 defeat to Maccabi Haifa on Monday.
Haifa visits Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.
Betar Jerusalem has been closing in on the yellow-and-blue in recent weeks, winning three straight matches since David Amsalem replaced Itzhak Schum as coach.
Jerusalem will be expecting to return home with three more points on Saturday after it visits rock-bottom Hapoel Ra’anana, which has lost six straight encounters and hasn’t won a match in 2010.
Coach Shimon Hadari will join Amsalem on the bench for the first time after signing until the end of the season on Thursday.
Amsalem does not currently hold the required UEFA Pro coaching license to officially guide the team, but with the authorized Hadari at his side he will be able remain at the helm.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Beersheba, Hapoel Ramat Gan visits Hapoel Acre and Ashdod SC travels up north to face Ahi Nazareth, which has lost two consecutive matches by a 5-0 score-line.