Mac Haifa hopes to pull away

Premier League champions enter Matchday 8 with a five-point lead at the top of the standings.

maccabi haifa 88 (photo credit: )
maccabi haifa 88
(photo credit: )
Reigning Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa enters Matchday 8 with a five-point lead at the top of the standings. Second place Bnei Yehuda, coming off an impressive win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, faces a tough away fixture against Maccabi Netanya. Hapoel Tel Aviv travels to Kfar Saba in Friday afternoon's opening fixture. Tel Aviv barely managed a draw last week against Bnei Sakhnin, after scoring the equalizer in the final minutes of the game. Kfar Saba is already deep in the relegation area and another loss could prove costly for the greens. Tel Aviv coach Dror Kashtan is expected to demote star midfielder Baruch Dego to the bench. Dego, who was signed from local rival Maccabi Tel Aviv this summer, has failed to make an impact in the teams' recent matches. Youngster Gil Vermut is expected to start in his place. Kfar Saba veteran Avi Tikva and Croatian forward Zoran Rayovic are unfit and will not take part in the game. The positive surprises of the season so far, Maccabi Netanya and Bnei Yehuda, clash on Saturday afternoon in what promises to be a high-scoring affair. Host Netanya is expecting around 4,000 fans at "The Box." Netanya coach Reuven Atar still has injury problems, with defenders Ofer Talker and Mate Lakich still lacking match fitness. Both are unlikely to be in the game squad. Congolese Papi Kimoto has recovered from an injury and is probable for this game. Bnei Yehuda is coming into this game with a four-game winning streak and will try to keep that and an unbeaten run of six matches alive. The team has also offered additional season tickets for sale, hoping to bring more fans to home games. Orange coach Nitzan Shirazi will field his strongest lineup despite Roni Gafny suffering from a strained ankle. The talented full back is expected to play through the injury. Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva in a game that has been taken off the Toto betting form. The greens are expected to collect all three points from this fixture, with the visitors having very little to offer in return. Israeli international Idan Tal is expected to ink a new contract with the club by next week that will keep him in Haifa for another three seasons. Coach Roni Levy will be able to field his strongest lineup, as last year's top goalscorer Roberto Colautti is back in training. Betar Jerusalem hosts Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth, in what could be Guy Azuri's last game in charge of the yellow-and-black. Legendary French player and former coach of PSG Luis Fernandez is expected to visit the capital next week and interview for the head coach position. After using Nissim Bachar as the registered coach for a few games, Azuri will now have a new partner on the bench. President Arkadi Gaydamak's professional advisor, Ton Kanen, has submitted his coaching certificate to the IFA and will stand on the sidelines during Saturday's game at the Teddy Stadium. Maccabi Tel Aviv takes on Bnei Sakhnin Sunday evening, after virtually losing its title hopes for this season. The yellow-and-blue are now eight points behind league leader Maccabi Haifa, just seven games into the season. Maccabi Petah Tikva, which faced Brondby Thursday night in a UEFA Cup match, hosts Ashdod SC on Monday.