Local Soccer: Rejuvenated Haifa takes aim at leaders

Greens have won 4 and drawn one of their last 6 league matches and are within eight points of Betar.

MACCABI HAIFA 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Premier League on Saturday night in a match both teams desperately need to win for entirely different reasons. Haifa has won four and drawn one of its last six league matches, including a 3-0 victory over Bnei Yehuda in its last league match, and is within eight points of reigning champion and league-leading Betar Jerusalem. Betar faces a tough away game at Maccabi Netanya on Sunday, and Haifa could mount the pressure with another win on Saturday at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. Hapoel Tel Aviv, on the other hand, needs the three points to have any chance of climbing out of the relegation zone. Tel Aviv claimed its first win of the season against Maccabi Tel Aviv two weeks ago and leapfrogged its arch-rival in the standings. A win at Haifa and a draw or loss for Bnei Yehuda, which visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday, will propel the reds to 10th in the table. "We want to maintain our positive momentum," Hapoel defender Tal Hen said Thursday. "The derby match has given us a lot of confidence, but we're facing a tough opponent on Saturday. Haifa has played well in the last couple of months and we'll have to work hard to get a result." Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to rebound from its derby loss when it hosts Maccabi Herzliya on Saturday. Tel Aviv has lost seven of its first nine league matches and can't afford to lose to a fellow struggler. Also on Saturday, Hapoel Kfar Saba plays Ashdod SC and Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts second-place Bnei Sakhnin.