Premier League race tightens

Betar Jerusalem may rebound from last week's defeat to Petah Tikva as it hosts the team at Teddy Stadium.

soccer standings 298 (photo credit: )
soccer standings 298
(photo credit: )
Only two points separate the top five teams in the Premier League ahead of Matchday 10 and for the first time in years, the league looks headed for a tight championship race. Betar Jerusalem is looking to rebound from its disappointing defeat to Maccabi Petah Tikva last week as it hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium on Saturday. Betar was outclassed 3-1 in Matchday 9 and has failed so far this season to win consistently. Jerusalem began the season with three straight wins, but has since only won two consecutive matches once and the club has failed to live up to high expectations. "Losing is never pleasant, but if we celebrate after every win and cry after every loss, we won't be able to fulfill our ambitions," Betar midfielder Gal Alberman said ahead of this weekend's match. "All the teams are highly motivated when they play us and that makes life difficult, but we need to know how to deal with this." Only a late Yaniv Katan penalty denied Hapoel Petah Tikva an unlikely point in its match against Maccabi Haifa last week and the club hopes once again that its underdog status will help it push a higher-placed opponent all the way. Jerusalem is still without injured French winger Fabrice Fernandes and will also be missing Arik Benado, who was sent off last week. Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday looking for its third straight win. Maccabi thumped Betar a week after winning in Ashdod and anything other than three points on Saturday could be a huge disappointment. After a surprising 2005/06 campaign in which it finished fourth, Bnei Yehuda has found wins hard to come by this season and will be looking for a kick-start to 2006/07 in Petah Tikva. Bnei Yehuda has won only two of its eight matches and is in ninth place. The Tel Aviv club is desperate for points and will hope to take advantage of Maccabi's overconfidence after its win against Jerusalem. The battle for supremacy in the Sharon region will take place in Kfar Saba, where the local Hapoel hosts Maccabi Herzliya. Maccabi is at the bottom of the standings and despite changing its coach last week, still lost for the fifth time this season. Kfar Saba has only one win in its last seven matches and anything other than a win against Herzliya could be a big blow. Maccabi Netanya hosts Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan on Saturday and will be hoping to close the gap at the top of the standings. Netanya has had an erratic season so far, winning impressively against opponents like Betar and Maccabi Haifa, but failing to beat clubs such as Hapoel Petah Tikva and Bnei Yehuda. Hakoah has only one win so far this season, but is collecting points one at a time, drawing four of its nine matches to date. Uri Malmilian's men are hard to beat and Netanya will need to be fully focused if it's to get its fourth win of the season. Maccabi Tel Aviv will host Maccabi Haifa on Sunday in a match both clubs might need to win to keep pace at the top of the standings. The last game of Matchday 10 will be played on Monday when Hapoel Tel Aviv visits SC Ashdod.