Local Soccer: Levy confident ahead of Hap TA clash

Haifa hosts Tel Aviv in Monday's "game of the season"; Betar needs a win at Ashdod.

mac haifa 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
mac haifa 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy was in a confident mood ahead of Monday's crunch showdown against Hapoel Tel Aviv at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Thursday, saying he believes a victory will all but guarantee his side a second straight Premier League title.
Haifa has led the standings throughout the season, but currently holds just a three-point margin over Hapoel, which will leapfrog the Greens into first position with a victory on Monday thanks to a superior goal difference.
Levy's men have won a remarkable 26 of 31 matches so far, but Hapoel has also been in inspiring form for much of the campaign, and especially in recent weeks, winning 10 of its last 11 encounters.
Tel Aviv has also benefited from the league¹s new format, which saw Haifa's gap halved from six to three points two weeks ago ahead of the final five matches of the season.
However, Haifa still has its fate in its own hands, and Levy is optimistic his team will close in on another league title with a victory at Kiryat Eliezer.
"Both teams have different styles of play but are both excellent sides," Levy said.
"I presume neither team will be looking to entertain on Monday. Barcelona had the lions' share of possession in its Champions League semifinal first leg against Inter, but Inter was the more dangerous team and won 3-1," added Levy, hinting to the general belief that Tel Aviv plays a more attractive style of soccer than Haifa.
"We will do everything to win because three points will take us within touching distance of the championship."
Levy feels that the fact that Hapoel will have to go for a victory at all cost, as each team will only have three matches remaining after Monday, could work in Haifa's favor.
"Hapoel has to win, but we know that if we win we will take the championship," he said. "We have the edge as we hold a three-point lead and are hosting the game. We just need to focus on our play and continue our great season."
With the mouthwatering title decider not being played until Monday, the battle against relegation will take center stage on Saturday.
A stoppage time strike by goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi gave Ahi Nazareth an important point against Hapoel Haifa last week, but John Gregory's side will feel it must take all three points on Saturday if it¹s to remain in the top-flight.
Nazareth hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva and will move tied on points with Eli Mahpud's team with a home victory.
Hapoel Ra'anana is five points adrift of survival and hosts Hapoel Acre on Saturday in a must-win match. Ra'anana has won just once in 2010 and will be facing an Acre side brimming with confidence after its 2-1 defeat over Hapoel Petah Tikva last week.
On Sunday, Hapoel Haifa visits Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Betar Jerusalem will be looking to keep alive its hopes of overtakingMaccabi Tel Aviv and finishing third when it visits Ashdod SC onSaturday.
After winning five straight matches, Betar has failed to score in itslast three, drawing with Hapoel Ramat Gan before losing twice toMaccabi Tel Aviv.
Betar defender Arik Benado was sentenced to five days of house arreston Thursday after being caught driving away from the club's trainingground a day after his driver's license was revoked for speeding.Regardless, Benado was set to miss Saturday¹s match through suspension.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya visits Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Beersheba travels up North to face Bnei Sakhnin.
Bnei Yehuda is tied on points with Betar and welcomes Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday.