Local Soccer: Hapoel TA begins its relegation dogfight against Herzliya

Is Shlomi Arbeitman the man to save Hapoel Tel Aviv? Coach Eli Gutman certainly hopes so. The former Betar Jerusalem striker has completed his loan move to the Reds from Maccabi Haifa and began training at the team's Wolfson training ground Thursday morning. Although he is unlikely to be included in the team's squad for Saturday's crucial Israeli Premier League match against Maccabi Herzliya, Arbeitman could prove key in the long run. With Hapoel rooted in the relegation zone, just a point above last-placed Bnei Yehuda, this weekend's game marks the beginning of the relegation dogfight the Israeli Cup holder has become embroiled in. Herzliya may be six points and three places above Hapoel Tel Aviv in the league standings, but Fredi David's team is clearly one of the weaker sides in the division and could well end up in or close to the drop zone as the season moves towards its climax in May. Arbeitman, who is to eventually play alongside Brazilian Fabio Junior in the front line, appeared unawed by the task ahead. "I have come to a big club and I am happy to be here and I hope I can help them," he told reporters after training on Thursday. "I don't feel under any pressure due to Hapoel's situation and I am sure we can move out from below the red line." After failing to make an impact at Haifa this season, Arbeitman will replace another failed former Betar striker at Hapoel, Lior Asulin, who on Thursday signed for Apollon Limassol, the Cypriot club coached by ex-Betar coach Yossi Mizrahi. Unlike Hapoel Tel Aviv, which lost to Hapoel Kfar Saba last week, Haifa is on a roll at the moment, having turned around a disastrous start to the season, and visits Eli Ohana's Kfar Saba team on Saturday. The northern club is still attempting to bring back the on-loan Maor Buzaglo who is currently playing for Bnei Sakhnin. The 20-year-old has had an impressive season so far, scoring six goals and setting up six more. Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv is preparing for its big day with new owner Alex Shnaider, who is due to arrive in Israel for a brief two-day visit on Saturday which will include a trip to the club's training ground as well as the home game at Bloomfield against Ironi Kiryat Shmona. After seeing his team lose to Maccabi Haifa last weekend Maccabi Tel Aviv general ganager Avi Nimni and coach Nir Levin will be determined to impress their new boss against the newly promoted Kiryat Shmona side. Nimni and his players insisted that they are treating Saturday's game like any other. "We are concentrating on making sure we stay in this league and do not get relegated," Nimni said on Thursday. Also Saturday, second-placed Maccabi Netanya hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva and Bnei Yehuda will look to climb off of bottom spot when it plays Bnei Sakhnin at the intimidating Doha Stadium. Matchday 16 will be completed on Sunday when Betar Jerusalem visits Ashdod SC on the back of a defeat to Sakhnin last weekend.