Local Soccer: Hapoel TA aims to move back on top

Tel Aviv currently trails league-leader Maccabi Haifa by two points.

hapoel tel aviv 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
hapoel tel aviv 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv can return to the top of the Premier League standings on Saturday and will be hoping its arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv does it a favor on Sunday so it can remain in first position for more than 24 hours. Hapoel has won three straight and five of its last six league matches and visits Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday, which hasn't won in five games. Tel Aviv currently trails league-leader Maccabi Haifa by two points, and will go top for at least a day with a win on Saturday, as Haifa only faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday. Haifa has won four of its last five matches, but will not have it all its own way against an improving Maccabi Tel Aviv, which has won three of its last four games. "Tel Aviv is playing without pressure and is a very dangerous opponent," Haifa coach Elisha Levy explained on Thursday, before going on to say that he believes Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya have still got a chance of claiming the title. Betar visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday, looking to rebound from last week's disappointing 2-2 home draw against Bnei Yehuda. Jerusalem closed in on the top two after winning five of six matches before drawing with Bnei Yehuda, but now trails Haifa by eight points and faces a mammoth task to overtake Haifa and Hapoel with just seven matches remaining in the season. Maccabi Petah Tikva all but ended Maccabi Netanya's title aspirations last week, winning 2-1 in Netanya, its first victory since January. Netanya is nine points back of Haifa and will be hoping to win at Ashdod SC on Saturday to first and foremost boost its chances of claiming a UEFA Cup berth. No one at the club is talking about winning a first championship in 26 years anymore, which is quite natural considering the side has won just four of its last 14 encounters. Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Bnei Sakhnin in a crucial relegation battle on Saturday in Ran Ben-Shimon's first match on the sidelines since returning to the club on Sunday. Ben-Shimon guided Kiryat Shmona to third position and a place in the UEFA Cup last season, but his only target in the remaining seven matches of the season will be to avoid a drop to the National League. Kiryat Shmona won just once in 12 matches under former coach Eli Cohen and fell to last position following a 1-0 loss to Hakoakh Amidar Ramat Gan last week. Also Saturday, Ramat Gan visits Bnei Yehuda.