Dramatically decisive weekend in store

Mac TA’s title a wrap, but six teams – including Beitar – face relegation going into final slate.

Bruchian 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Bruchian 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The tightest battle against relegation in recent memory will reach its climax on Saturday night as six teams enter their final matches of the season still in danger of being demoted from the Premier League.
Hapoel Haifa (38 points, 9 wins, 35-44 goal difference), Beitar Jerusalem (38, 9, 44-54), Hapoel Beersheba (38, 9, 29-39), Hapoel Acre (36, 8, 38-47), Bnei Sakhnin (36, 8, 31-49) and Maccabi Netanya (35, 8, 38-47) are all facing the threat of losing their top-flight status on Saturday.
The six sides all face each other, with Sakhnin hosting Beitar, Acre welcoming Haifa and Netanya facing Beersheba.
Each team has its fate in its own hands, with a victory enough for all six to secure their survival regardless of other results.
However, a draw could also be sufficient for each of the six sides, should other scores work in their favor, with Haifa to remain in the league even if it loses by two goals or less and Beitar to still stay up as long as it falls by just a single goal.
There are essentially an infinite amount of scenarios for Saturday.
Overall goal difference will act as the first tiebreaker should two teams or more end the season with an identical point total, with the second tiebreaker being the number of wins recorded in the season.
It is quite possible that the fight for survival will end up being decided by the third tiebreaker, namely the amount of goals scored by each team throughout the season.
Wins for Acre, Netanya and Sakhnin will result in a four-way tie for 13th place, which will lead to the second division at around 9:00pm on Saturday.
Around 700 policemen and 150 stewards will be at Sakhnin for the match against Beitar, which is a potentially volatile rivalry at the best of times, not to mention when both teams are fighting for their Premier League lives.
Despite currently sitting in 13th place, Netanya enters Saturday with momentum on its side, going unbeaten over its past four matches, winning its last two.
Acre is unbeaten in its past eight games, while Sakhnin hasn’t lost in its last six encounters.
Beitar, on the other hand, has won just one of its last 13 matches and a defeat to Sakhnin by two goals or more combined with home victories for both Acre and Netanya would see Jerusalem drop to the second division.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Ramat Gan, which clinched relegation last week, hosts Ashdod SC.
Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday afternoon in what will be an appetizer for the official championship celebrations, which will take place at Rabin Square from 8:30 p.m.
Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, the father of Maccabi’s sporting director Jordi, will take part in the celebrations with his son.
“After 10 years it’s a big celebration for the whole team and everybody who is with the team,” Cruyff senior said on Thursday. “I’m very happy not only for my son but for myself.”
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa visits Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, while Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday.