Mac Haifa, K8 both set for early-season test

The pressure is already on Reuven Atar’s men after their defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Yaniv Katan 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Yaniv Katan 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa will be playing just its second Premier League match of the season when it hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday evening, but the pressure is already on Reuven Atar’s men after their defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Haifa was impressive at times at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday, but it still dropped to a 2-1 loss to Tel Aviv, and faces a very tricky showdown against the reigning-champion at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Saturday.
Kiryat Shmona needed a 94th-minute winner from Salah Hasarma to claim a 3-2 win over Betar Jerusalem last Saturday and will be looking to recover from its Champions League exit when it visits Kiryat Eliezer.
Kiryat Shmona was knocked out by BATE Borisov (3-1 on aggregate) after drawing 1-1 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday, but can find consolation in the Europa League group stage for which its qualified by reaching the playoff round.
The likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Inter Milan are among the many illustrious clubs Kiryat Shmona could be drawn with on Friday, with the six matches of the group stage to run from September 20 to December 6.
A day after suffering disappointment on the field, Kiryat Shmona also experienced defeat off it when an arbitrator ruled on Wednesday that international defender Eitan Tibi will be able to move to Maccabi Tel Aviv for just 350,000 euro.
The Tibi deal capped a very busy week on the transfer mark for the yellow-and-blue, which visits Maccabi Netanya in its second league match on Monday.
Maccabi signed 31-year-old Ivory Coast defender Steve Gohouri on Tuesday, while receiving around 2 million euro for Senegalese striker Moussa Konate’s move to Russian club FC Krasnodar last week and another 1 million euro from the transfer of Emmanuel Mayuka from Young Boys Bern to English Premier League club Southampton.
Mayuka, who moved to Southampton for a fee believed to be in the region of five million euros, joined Bern in 2010 from Maccabi, which inserted a clause in the agreement granting it a 20 percent stake of the striker’s next transfer.
After the heartbreaking defeat in Kiryat Shmona, Betar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Beersheba at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night.
Betar will be without coach Eli Cohen for its next two matches following his outburst in Kiryat Shmona, while midfielder Dario Fernandez will miss four games after being found guilty of improper conduct and insulting referee Eitan Shmuelevitch by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan, Ashdod SC visits Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon welcomes Hapoel Acre.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which will also be drawn in the Europa League group stage on Friday, hosts Hapoel Haifa on Sunday.
Tel Aviv advanced to the group stage on Thursday with a 4-0 win over F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel, which had all but booked its progress with a 3-1 win on the road last week, scored four times in 20 second-half minutes to run away with the encounter.