Resurgent Betar going for 5th straight W

Jerusalem, Hap Haifa both have opportunity to distance themselves for relegation pack.

KOBI MOYAL 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The battle against relegation from the Premier League hits yet another crucial juncture on Saturday.
In-form Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa can take a huge step towards another season of top-flight soccer with road wins over the struggling Hapoel Rishon Lezion and Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Betar enters its match in Rishon on the back of four straight wins, its longest streak of the season, and can move 10 points clear of the relegation zone should it claim a fifth consecutive victory and Petah Tikva also lose to Hapoel Haifa.
Haifa’s 2-1 victory against Hapoel Beersheba last week was its fourth in six matches and three more points on Saturday will give Tal Banin’s men an eight-point cushion from the bottom three with five matches remaining in the season.
Petah Tikva is winless in its past seven matches and its 21- year run in the top-flight, the fourth-best active streak after Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv, is in serious jeopardy.
A failure to win either of its next two matches against Haifa or Beersheba, which is just two points ahead of it and visits rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday, will leave Maccabi Petah Tikva in a desperate situation, although Betar coach Eli Cohen believes the fight for survival could still hold some twists.
“We haven’t achieved anything yet,” Cohen said on Thursday after helping pack food parcels for Pessah with his squad.
“If we lose, we will be back in square one. We need to continue this momentum and hopefully maintain it until the end of the season. We want to pick up at least six more points and end the season the best way possible so that we can forget about the first part of our campaign.”
Also in the relegation playoffs, Hapoel Acre hosts Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Maccabi Netanya has been playing the best soccer in the country in recent weeks and it will be aiming to return to second place when it visits Bnei Yehuda in the championship playoffs on Saturday.
Netanya, which will be going for its fifth straight league win, was drawn to host Hapoel Tel Aviv in the quarterfinals of the State Cup on Wednesday and currently trails the Reds in the league standings on goal difference.
Hapoel visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday, hoping to postpone the Northerners’ title celebrations for at least one more week.
In other cup quarterfinals: Maccabi Haifa hosts Upper Nazareth of the National League, Maccabi Petah Tikva faces Ashdod SC and second-division Maccabi Herzliya welcomes Ramat Hasharon.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Sakhnin, while Ashdod visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday.