Reds meet Gregory’s Nazareth to kick off big week

Hapoel needs all three points to both keep pace with league-leader Maccabi Haifa and remain ahead of arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Hapoel Tel Aviv has already begun its preparations for next Thursday’s Europa League round of 32 first-leg encounter at Russian champion Rubin Kazan. However, it can not afford to take its eye off Saturday’s Premier League match against Ahi Nazareth at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel desperately needs all three points to both keep pace with league-leader Maccabi Haifa, which visits Betar Jerusalem on Sunday, and to remain ahead of arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv ahead of the local derby.
Hapoel players Eran Zehavi and Avihai Yadin modeled the winter gear the club had received for the trip to Kazan on Thursday, with temperatures reaching -21°C in the capital of Tatarstan in recent days.
Even with Hapoel already having its sights set on the Kazan tie, Zehavi is confident the team can remain focused on the task at hand on Saturday.
“We first have to play Nazareth and only after that match we will be able to turn our attention to Kazan,” the in-form forward said. “We believe we can win in Kazan and we will give it our best shot.”
Hapoel thrashed Ashdod SC 4-0 last week and will be heavily favored to defeat Nazareth, which despite showing improvement under the guidance of Englishman John Gregory in recent months, suffered its first loss in five matches last week, falling 1-0 to Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Maccabi Tel Aviv is just two points back of its cross-town rival and goes for its sixth straight victory when it visits Hapoel Ramat Gan on Saturday.
Avi Nimni’s men brushed aside Maccabi Netanya in the State Cup inmidweek and will be hoping to maintain their positive momentum ahead ofthe much-anticipated derby match.
Also Saturday, HapoelBeersheba hosts Maccabi Netanya, Ashdod SC visits Maccabi Petah Tikva,Hapoel Acre welcomes Hapoel Petah Tikva and Bnei Sakhnin travels downsouth to face Hapoel Ra’anana.
Hapoel Haifa hosts Bnei Yehuda on Monday.