Hap TA, Mac Haifa locked in title battle

Hapoel Tel Aviv may have made the most significant signings of the January transfer window, but Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy is still confident.

Maccabi Haifa 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv may have made the most significant signings of the January transfer window, but Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy is still confident his team will go on to claim the Premier League championship.
Hapoel spent 1.4 million euros to bring in Elroei Cohen from Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Slovakian international defender Mario Pecalka, as well as adding Israeli midfielder Shay Revivo on a free transfer.
The Reds remain the favorite to defend its title, having lost just once in its last 17 matches, winning 13 of them.
However, Levy believes that even though Haifa didn’t spend heavily, its squad is good enough to end the season in first position and promised that the club will continue to stand by its policy of promoting players from the youth team.
“We made a big effort to sign a striker in the transfer window, but we couldn’t find one who would upgrade us,” Levy said. “Haifa has a club policy to build itself on players from the youth department and we are in first position because we have remained true to our values.”
Haifa can open a five-point margin over Hapoel Tel Aviv at the top of the league standings on Saturday when it visits Ashdod SC, with Hapoel not hosting Maccabi Petah Tikva until Monday.
The Greens struggled to a 1- 0 victory over Bnei Sakhnin last week, but despite failing to hit top form, Levy’s men are unbeaten in their last 12 matches, having lost just once so far this season.
Ashdod is in danger of dropping into the relegation playoffs after losing its last three matches by a combined 2-12 goal difference.
Maccabi Tel Aviv is just six points back of Haifa, even though it saw its four-game winning streak cut short by a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday.
However, the yellow-andblue will expect a quick return to winning ways on Saturday when it visits rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Gan, which hasn’t scored a goal in its past five matches.
After needing an 88th minute penalty by Aviram Bruchian to draw 1-1 with Bnei Yehuda and maintain Roni Levy’s unbeaten run at the club, Betar Jerusalem visits Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.

“We would like to climb up the standings, but our situation means that we still have to keep an eye on the teams at the bottom of the table,” Bruchian said. “We need to string together a long winning streak to get into the top-six playoff, starting from this week.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Beersheba visits Hapoel Petah Tikva and Bnei Yehuda welcomes Hapoel Acre.
Hapoel Ashkelon hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday.