Local Soccer: Beersheba aims to turn focus back to soccer

After one of the most tumultuous weeks in its history, southern club visit Maccabi Tel Aviv.

After one of the most tumultuous weeks in its history, Hapoel Beersheba will look to turn its focus from its off-field crisis to its play on the pitch when it visits Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.
The turbulent week began with coach Guy Azuri being driven off the road by fans following the disappointing 2-2 home draw against Ahi Nazareth last Saturday, setting off a chain of events which would plunge the club into turmoil.
Azuri handed in his resignation the following day and less than 24 hours later owner Alona Barkat announced that she will be leaving Beersheba at the end of the season because of the supporters’ behavior.
With so much going on off the field, interim coach Viko Hadad has got his work cut out for him ahead of Saturday’s encounter at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hadad, who retired from active coaching more than a decade ago, is currently the Beersheba youth department manager, but agreed to take charge of the senior team for the time being until Barkat comes up with a long term solution. Some 2,000 Beersheba fans are expected at Bloomfield and are planning a rally to persuade Barkat to remain at the club.
“The most important thing at the moment is to lift the morale of the players and strengthen our defensive play because that is the team’s biggest problem,” Hadad said on Thursday.
Tel Aviv has problems of its own after losing its last two matches. Maccabi entered the Tel Aviv derby two weeks ago on the back of a six-match winning streak, but has since being brought back down to earth.
Avi Nimni’s men still have a seven-point cushion on fourth-placed Bnei Yehuda, but with the club’s fans still angry with the team’s performance in the derby, Tel Aviv will be desperate to claim all three points on Saturday.
League leader Maccabi Haifa can open a 12-point gap over Hapoel Tel Aviv for at least 48 hours when it visits Ahi Nazareth on Saturday.
Elisha Levy’s team needed an 88th minute goal from Mohammad Ghadir to get the better of 10-man Ashdod SC last week and will be hoping for a far easier victory on Saturday.
John Gregory’s Ahi Nazareth climbed off the bottom of the Premier League standings last week, but has won just once in its last 18 matches and lost 4-1 to Haifa earlier this season.
Betar Jerusalem will look to claim its second straight victory under new coach David Amsalem when its visits Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Betar ended a six-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over MaccabiNetanya last week and will be confident of getting the better of anAcre side which is winless in its last 10 matches, recording sevenlosses and three draws.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Ra’anana, Maccabi Petah Tikvavisits Bnei Sakhnin and Ashdod SC welcomes Maccabi Netanya.
Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan on Sunday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv going to Hapoel Petah Tikva on Monday.