Maccabi Haifa hosts for first time since war

Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan will play its first home match in the Premier League in 22 years when it hosts Bnei Yehuda.

maccabi haifa 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
maccabi haifa 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Israeli Premier League returns to action this weekend after a twoweek layoff due to Euro 2008 qualification matches. Matchday 2 action will be highlighted by Maccabi Haifa's attempt to recover from its surprising Matchday 1 loss to Maccabi Netanya. The greens host Ashdod SC at Kiryat Eliezer in their first match at home since the war in the North. Netanya is hoping to maintain its momentum from two weeks ago when it travels to Petah Tikva to play Hapoel, which was thrashed 4-1 by Hapoel Kfar Saba in Matchday 1. Kfar Saba visits Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium and will be confident of defeating the once-feared yellow-and-blue. Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan will play its first home match in the Premier League in 22 years when it hosts Bnei Yehuda. Maccabi Herzliya will also host its first match since returning to the top flight when it faces Maccabi Petah Tikva, which was disappointed with a goalless draw against Hakoach in Matchday 1. The main match of the weekend is Sunday night when Betar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv. Haifa must win its first home match of the season after its unexpected defeat in Netanya a fortnight ago. Maccabi has already lost ground on main title rival Betar and another lackluster result on Saturday will increase the pressure on the threetime defending league champion. Haifa will be without suspended Alain Masudi, who will likely be replaced by Maor Melikson or Shlomi Arbitman. Haifa coach Roni Levy will also need to cope with the fact that seven of his players were involved in international action and only returned to the team's training on Thursday night. Netanya will be looking for continuity on Saturday after recording the most impressive win of Matchday 1, defeating Haifa 3-1. Maccabi Netanya has a good chance of maintaining its winning start when it visits the league's biggest loser in Matchday 1. Hapoel Petah Tikva was outclassed by Kfar Saba 4-1 two weeks ago and the recent break was perfectly timed for the team. Maccabi Tel Aviv will try to kickstart its season when it hosts Kfar Saba in its second straight home league match, after losing to Betar at Bloomfield 2-1 two weeks ago. Hapoel Kfar Saba, which had the biggest margin of victory in the first week of the season, will try to hold on to first place in the standings with a win against struggling Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hakoach hosts Bnei Yehuda in the latter's former home ground in Tel Aviv's Hatikva Quarter. Bnei Yehuda has been playing its home matches at Bloomfield Stadium in recent seasons, but will ironically return to its historic home in an away match. Maccabi Herzliya and Maccabi Petah Tikva will be looking for their first goals of the season. Herzliya lost 1-0 in Ashdod in Matchday 1, while Maccabi was disappointed with a 0-0 draw against the other promoted team, Hakoach.