Local Soccer: League play back in spotlight with tight race at the top
Ramat Gan manager: Betar undoubtedly has the best squad in the league, but we will aim to play our soccer and win the match.
By ALLON SINAI
With Israel's stuttering World Cup campaign now on the backburner until the qualifiers resume in September, the Premier League title race takes center stage once more, starting from this weekend.
The top three, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Netanya are separated by just three points, with Betar Jerusalem a further three point back.
Jerusalem's hopes of claiming a third straight league championship suffered a blow when it lost 1-0 at Netanya in its most recent league match two weeks ago. But Reuven Atar's side has an ideal opportunity to return to winning ways on Saturday when it hosts last-place Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan.
Betar won four straight matches before losing to Netanya and faces a Hakoach team which is still rock-bottom despite drawing its last three games.
"Everyone thought we would be relegated by now, but we've proven we're a strong unit which plays well," Ramat Gan manager Dudu Dahan said.
"Betar undoubtedly has the best squad in the league, but we will aim to play our soccer and win the match. I'm not settling for a draw."
Hapoel Tel Aviv will be going for its fourth win in five matches when it visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Petah Tikva hasn't won in over two months and will have a tough time once more on Saturday, especially considering Hapoel can leapfrog Haifa into first position for at least 48 hours with a victory, as the greens don't face Ashdod SC until Monday.
Netanya visits Bnei Yehuda on Saturday, hoping to build on its victory against Betar, despite the two-week international break.
Netanya played perhaps its best match of the season against Jerusalem, but it will be interesting to see how its five Israeli internationals react to the disappointment of losing to Greece.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Bnei Sakhnin visits Hapoel Petah Tikva.
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