Local Soccer: Haifa hoping to avoid giant-killing

Greens visit Ahi Nazareth in Cup quarters tonight.

Maccabi Haifa sad 298 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa sad 298
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa will look to put the disappointment of losing the top position in the Premier League behind it when it visits Ahi Nazareth in the State Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. Haifa could only manage a 1-1 draw at Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, a result which left it in second place in the league standings, trailing Hapoel Tel Aviv on goal difference. Maccabi will therefore be hoping the cup proves to be a pleasant distraction from the grueling pursuit of the league title, especially as Elisha Levy's team is a massive favorite to win in Nazareth and advance to the semifinals. Nazareth is currently in sixth position in the National League and has reached the last eight without facing a Premier League opponent. However, Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovich is refusing to underestimate the National League side. "We're expecting a tough match. Nazareth has a good team," Davidovich said. "Nazareth has a good collection of players, which could easily play in the Premier League. I'm sure they will be looking to surprise us and we'll need to be at our best." The three other quarterfinals will also be played on Wednesday, with Betar Jerusalem visiting National League club Hapoel Kfar Saba, Maccabi Netanya hosting Bnei Sakhnin and Ashdod SC welcoming Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan. Betar's chances of defending its league title aren't looking very good at the moment, as it trails Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa by six points, with only six matches to be played in the season. As a result, the cup remains Jerusalem's best hope of lifting silverware this season. "The match against Kfar Saba will be very difficult," Betar midfielder Idan Tal said. "We will have to work very hard and maintain our composure. If we play to our potential we will claim the victory." Last season, Betar beat Kfar Saba 3-2 in the cup quarterfinals at Teddy Stadium on its way to winning the cup. Kfar Saba is in eighth place in the National League and reached the quarterfinals after defeating Hapoel Petah Tikva 2-1. "We're very excited and there's no need to motivate the players ahead of such a match," Kfar Saba coach Slobodan Drapic said. "This year we're playing Betar at home and on a given day we can beat any team." After a disappointing run of results has seen it drop out of championship contention, Netanya will be aiming to at least keep alive its hope of winning the cup. Netanya has lost two and drawn one of its last three league matches and on Wednesday faces an improving Sakhnin team, which defeated Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday to move five points clear of the bottom two. "Sakhnin has already won the cup and we want to do so again and play in Europe next season," Sakhnin coach Eran Kulik said. Ashdod is still searching for a first title in club history and plays a Hakoach team far more concerned with its fight against relegation. Yossi Mizrahi's side no longer has anything to play for in the league, making Wednesday's match the most important of its campaign. "This is the time for the players to show their worth," Mizrahi said. "They know a victory will get them to National Stadium in Ramat Gan and every player wants to play there."