Pack chasing down TA clubs

Maccabi can put some pressure on its title rivals with a win over Hapoel Acre at Bloomfield Stadium.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Dor Micha 370 (photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Dor Micha 370
(photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Despite claiming just 11 points from a possible 21 over its past seven matches, Maccabi Tel Aviv continues to hold on to first place in the Premier League standings.
Last week’s 1-0 loss at Ashdod SC was Maccabi’s fifth defeat of the season and the yellow-and-blue’s fourth straight road match without a win.
However, second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv failed to take advantage, losing 2-0 at home to Betar Jerusalem on Monday, remaining two points behind Maccabi after winning just two of its past seven encounters.
Maccabi can put some pressure on its title rivals with a win over Hapoel Acre at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv only visiting Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
The yellow-and-blue has won eight of nine home encounters so far this season, including its past four by a combined goal difference of 17-3.
Acre is winless in its past 13 matches and dropped to the bottom of the standings last week after drawing 4-4 with Maccabi Netanya.
Maccabi’s erratic play has not gone ignored by its management, with the yellow-and-blue bringing in four new players in the January transfer window.
Defender Ignacio Fideleff was the last to sign, joining from Napoli of Italy’s Serie A on a loan deal until the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
He followed in the footsteps of Israeli-born Canadian goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski, striker Rade Prica and the undoubted star of the transfer window, Israel international Eran Zahavi, who arrived from Italy’s Palermo.
Zahavi, who signed a three-and- a-half year deal after weeks of speculation, played a key role in Hapoel Tel Aviv’s championship winning campaign in 2009/10.
The 25-year-old is best remembered for scoring the stoppage-time goal which gave Hapoel a 2-1 victory over Betar Jerusalem and clinched the league title for the Reds in the final seconds of the campaign.
While Hapoel has failed to make the most of the yellow-and- blue’s dip in form, Haifa’s 3- 0 win at Hapoel Ramat Gan on Sunday was its eighth in its last nine matches, bringing it to within five points of the summit.
Haifa could drop to fourth place for at least 24 hours on Saturday should Betar Jerusalem beat Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium.
Betar’s 2-0 win over Hapoel was its third in a row, with Eli Cohen’s men unbeaten in their past eight games.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya hosts Hapoel Ramat Gan, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon visits Bnei Sakhnin and Ironi Kiryat Shmona welcomes Ashdod SC.
Hapoel Beersheba hosts Hapoel Haifa on Sunday in a repeat of Wednesday’s Toto Cup final, which was won by Haifa.