Local Soccer: Second-place Haifa focusing on its league battle with Hapoel TA

Maccabi Haifa plays against Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday's Premier League match.

Maccabi Haifa 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa was drawn on Thursday to face Maccabi Netanya in the State Cup semifinals on May 13, but in the next couple of weeks it will be far more focused on its championship campaign, starting with Saturday's Premier League match against Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Haifa is currently in second position, trailing Hapoel Tel Aviv on goal difference, and will be a big favorite at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday. Maccabi's last league loss came on February 28 against Kiryat Shmona. And whereas Haifa has won four and drawn two of its six matches since, Kiryat Shmona has lost five times, including a 2-0 defeat to Bnei Sakhnin in Ran Ben-Shimon's first match back at the club last week. Betar Jerusalem was drawn to play Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan in the second cup semifinal at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. On Saturday, Betar will look to keep alive its lingering hope of retaining the league title when its hosts Ashdod SC. Jerusalem has won six of its last eight matches, but still trails the top two by six points, and with six more games remaining this season will need some favors from its rivals to have any chance of winning the championship for a third straight year. "We've always said everything is possible and we can still claim the double," Betar goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale said on Thursday. "Every league match is difficult and Saturday's encounter against Ashdod won't be any different." As far as Hakoach's concerned, reaching the last four of the cup was nothing more than a pleasant distraction from its fight against relegation. Dudu Dahan's team is one point ahead of rock-bottom Kiryat Shmona and faces Bnei Sakhnin, which is a further five points in front, in a six-point relegation battle on Saturday. Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva and Maccabi Petah Tikva visits Bnei Yehuda. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium their last derby of the season.