Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Abuksis expects a win at Hap Beersheba

Hapoel has won eight of its last 10 contests and another victory will take it into first position above Haifa.

Yossi Abuksis 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Yossi Abuksis 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
With its showdown against Maccabi Haifa just over a week away, Hapoel Tel Aviv will be desperate to claim all three points when it visits Hapoel Beersheba in a tricky Premier League match on Saturday night.
Hapoel has won eight of its last 10 contests and another victory on Saturday will take it into first position above Haifa, at least until the Greens host Hapoel Petah Tikva on Monday.
Even without coach Eli Gutman, who has been away from the team for the past three weeks as he recuperates from a heart attack, Tel Aviv’s title defense has remained on track, although its form has been far from brilliant.
Hapoel needed two late goals to get the better of Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday to close back to within two points of Haifa and the Reds will be hoping to regain last season’s form at Beersheba ahead of next week’s crunch match.
With point totals to be halved after 30 matches ahead of the final five games of the season once more this year, Tel Aviv and Haifa are not overly concerned with opening a gap over their main title rivals.
However, both teams are aching to enter the championship playoffs in first position as that would guarantee they host the side which finishes in second place in what would likely be the title decider.
“I’ve told my players that even though point totals will be halved we cannot afford to drop points,” Hapoel assistant coach Yossi Abuksis said.
“What happened last year with Maccabi Haifa was a miracle that occurs once in a 100 years. As far as we are concerned every match is crucial because we want to finish in first position and host Haifa in the playoffs unlike last season.”
With Gutman set to return to the sidelines in time to face Haifa, Abuksis is expected to take a back seat once more after this week. But the former Israel international midfielder has no intention of remaining an assistant for much longer.
“I think Gutman is the best coach for Hapoel and he should coach it next season as well,” said Abuksis, who is the favorite to replace Gutman should he leave to guide the Israel national team or a club in Europe.
“After so many years as an assistant it is time for me to move on and should Eli continue I will leave for another team.
That is only natural.”
Hapoel is not the only Tel Aviv team battling for top spot.
Maccabi Tel Aviv has won five of its last six matches and is in the thick of the title race, trailing Hapoel by just four points.
On Saturday, the yellow-and-blue hosts Hapoel Haifa, which has won just once in its past five encounters.
“Hapoel Haifa has proven that it is a good team, but at Bloomfield Maccabi needs to play well and win,” Tel Aviv coach Moti Ivanir said. “We are still not playing as well as we would like, but we have taken 16 of 18 points and we need to give the players confidence.”
Betar Jerusalem will look to rebound from its first defeat under Roni Levy on Saturday when it hosts Ashdod SC at Teddy Stadium.
Betar lost 1-0 at Bnei Sakhnin last week, but will be confident of beating an Ashdod side which has lost four successive matches.
“We have to fight for the points because we know that if we don’t defeat Ashdod we will get mixed up in the relegation battle,” Jerusalem captain Aviram Bruchian said.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan, Bnei Yehuda visits Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Netanya welcomes Hapoel Ashkelon.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Hapoel Acre on Sunday.