Israeli Premier League preview

Betar aiming to consolidate position at top; Maccabi Netanya looking to make up lost ground.

Betar 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem has firmly established its position at the summit of the Premier League standings, with a comfortable four-point gap over rest of the league. Maccabi Netanya and Ashdod SC, currently tied for second with 12 points each, are hoping to end Betar's domination this weekend. Netanya faces a stern test at "The Box" Saturday evening against Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda, which is eager to rejoin the league elite. The hosts will be without the services of veteran defender Eli Abarbanel, who is suffering from a nagging leg injury sustained in last week's match against Hapoel Kfar Saba. Daniel Jammer, Netanya's owner and acting president, has acknowledged the team's recent achievements and extended Eli Gutman's contract by another season. The signing will keep the coach at the club through the 2007/08 season, ending speculation around Gutman's professional future. Maccabi Petah Tikva was first in the league three weeks ago, but a two-game losing streak has reversed the "Luzons'" momentum, and the club has fallen to seventh, with 10 points. Guy Luzon will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend, but his team takes on a surging Ashdod SC in a difficult away fixture. The team will have to manage without captain Moran Megamadov, who sustained a knee injury in training earlier this week. Maccabi Tel Aviv, coming off an impressive derby victory over archrival Hapoel Tel Aviv, clashes with Uri Malmilian's Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan. Anything less than three points might be considered a failure by the yellow-and-blue, while Ramat Gan is in the hunt for at least a draw. Eyal Lahman's Hapoel Petah Tikva and Reuven Atar's Maccabi Herzliya, two teams looking to escape the relegation zone, square off in a survival battle at the Petah Tikva stadium. Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa face off on Sunday at Teddy Stadium in the nation's capital, and Hapoel Tel Aviv's away match against Hapoel Kfar Saba is scheduled for Monday due to Thursday's UEFA Cup match.