Focus returns to soccer matches

The Premier League will try to put a turbulent week behind it when play resumes on Saturday.

The Premier League will try to put a turbulent week behind it when play resumes on Saturday. Last week, two matches were plagued by player and fan violence. Maccabi Netanya midfielder Alain Masudi and Upper Nazareth's Ami Azulai were charged by the Israel Football Association disciplinary panel for fighting, while Bnei Sakhin and Betar Jerusalem also were punished after the teams' fans clashed Sunday night in Sakhin. Five of the six Matchday 17 games will be played Saturday evening, including important bottom-table clashes. Reigning champion Maccabi Haifa faces a tough away fixture against Upper Nazareth and will be keen to improve on its lackluster 1-0 win over last-place Hapoel Kfar Saba last week. Haifa marksman Roberto Colautti was sent off in the team's Toto Cup match against Ashdod SC earlier in the week and is suspended for the fixture. Coach Roni Levy will field a five-man midfield with Shlomi Arbitman as the lone striker up front. Hapoel Petah Tikva has signed dynamic fullback Ori Uzan from Maccabi Haifa until the end of the season. Uzan will join Ravid Gazal, who made the same move earlier this season after he wasn't happy with his status as a reserve player in Haifa. Petah Tikva hosts Ton Caanen's Maccabi Tel Aviv hoping to collect all three points, which would steer it into the safety of the mid-table and away from the relegation zone. Caanen's efforts earlier this week to land Betar striker Lior Asulin did not bear fruit, as the yellow-and-black issued a hands-off warning and raised Asulin's asking price to $1,000,000. Bnei Sakhnin will try to recover from the harsh punishment issued by the IFA earlier this week as it travels south to take on Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium. Ghanaian defender Ernest Edjei, who previously played for Sakhnin, will make his league debut for Bnei Yehuda against his former club. "My first impression is that this is a well managed club," Edjei told reporters ahead of the game. "The teammates are very helpful." Hapoel Kfar Saba has not given up on the season and has pledged to fight relegation until the very end despite the odds. Owner Eli Tabib has agreed to sign Bnei Yehuda playmaker Ben Luz on a four-year contract and the player has started training in the club. Kfar Saba hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva this weekend in a do-or-die game, as a loss will put the greens 10 points behind the rest of the league and seal the fate of the club. Ashdod SC will be looking to recover from last week's last-minute loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv against Maccabi Netanya, which will be missing forward Masudi, who was suspended for two matches. Masudi has joined the Congolese national team's training camp in Cairo ahead of the African Nations Cup. Sunday evening's match between Dror Kashtan's Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem at Bloomfield Stadium will wrap up Matchday 17. Macedonian sweeper Igor Mitresky is expected to make his debut for the yellow-and-black and provide some much needed stability to the team's defense.