Local Soccer: Kiryat Shmona needs a win vs Betar

Ben-Shimon's relegation battling side hosts Jerusalem while Hakoach faces Ashdod.

hapoel petah tikva betar jerusalem 248 8 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
hapoel petah tikva betar jerusalem 248 8
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
With Maccabi Haifa not hosting Hapoel Tel Aviv until Monday night, the battle against relegation to the National League will take center stage on Saturday. The Premier League's four bottom teams are each playing at home and are all desperate for victories to boost their hopes of avoiding relegation. Rock-bottom Ironi Kiryat Shmona is in the toughest position of all, even though it defeated Maccabi Netanya 3-1 last week. Kiryat Shmona, which had previously lost five straight matches, is two points adrift of Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan in 11th position, and hosts in-form Betar Jerusalem on Saturday. Despite losing any realistic hope of retaining its league title, Betar will be brimming with confidence after Wednesday's dramatic State Cup victory. Jerusalem advanced to the cup final with a 2-1 victory over Hakoach, thanks to a stoppage time own goal, and will be entering Saturday's encounter looking for its ninth league victory in its last 12 matches. Despite its struggles, Kiryat Shmona has a favorable record against Betar this season, winning against Jerusalem at home in October and drawing at Teddy Stadium in January. In past seasons, Kiryat Shmona would have had little hope of staying in the league, but with the Premier League expanding to 16 teams next season, only the side which finishes in last place will be relegated automatically, with the team ending in 11th position to play a relegation playoff against the team which finishes in sixth place in the National League. Hakoach is currently 11th and will be confident of beating Ashdod SC on Saturday. Ramat Gan has played well in recent weeks and very nearly defeated Betar in the cup semis after a disciplined display. Ashdod hasn't won a match in more than two months and only has pride to play for in the remainder of the season. After a good start to the season, Hapoel Petah Tivka has got itself in trouble in recent weeks. Petah Tikva, which has three more points than Hakoach, hasn't won a match since February, losing six and drawing three of its last nine encounters. On Saturday, Hapoel hosts its nemesis Maccabi Petah Tikva in the local derby, desperate to claim a win, not only to improve its chance of remaining in the league, but also to avenge its two defeats to Maccabi earlier this season. Bnei Sakhnin could clinch itself another season of Premier League soccer if it defeats Maccabi Netanya on Saturday and other results go its way. Sakhnin is one point ahead of Hapoel Petah Tikva and will be optimistic of its chances to claim all three points at the Doha Stadium. Eran Kulik's team is unbeaten in its last four matches, drawing with Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv in the last two weeks, and will be facing a heartbroken Netanya team which lost to Haifa in the cup semis on a penalty shootout. Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Bnei Yehuda.