Soccer: Tel Aviv's big two look to pull themselves out of trouble

Growing crisis at Hapoel and Maccabi to take center stage again in the Premier League this weekend.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The ever-growing crisis at Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv will take center stage in the Premier League once again this weekend. Tel Aviv's two top clubs are rooted at the bottom of the standings and have combined for an embarrassing four points and six goals in their seven league matches to date. Hapoel coach Guy Luzon takes his team to his old hunting ground to face Maccabi Petah Tikva, a club owned by his extended family. Luzon did exceptionally well during his time as Petah Tikva coach, but has discovered in recent months that guiding one of Israel's most illustrious clubs is an entirely different proposition. Hapoel has lost its last three matches without scoring a goal and is still looking for its first victory of the season. Luzon will have to manage without Reuven Oved, Lior Asulin and Yigal Antebi on Saturday, after the three were disciplined on Thursday for betting at a casino in Belgium following the team's match against Anderlecht in the UEFA Cup last week. Hapoel refused to disclose on Thursday what punishment the players, who violated the club's code of conduct, will face, and said that it will make an announcement on the matter in the coming days. "I have no faith in these players anymore," Luzon said on Thursday. "I asked the players to go to bed early after the match, but they had the nerve to leave the hotel and return in the early hours of the morning, even though I pointed out to them that we have an important match on Monday. They disrespected the coach, the team and the club. They hurt themselves and the fans." Maccabi coach Nir Levin doesn't have any of Luzon's disciplinary problems, but his team's current form means he is in a similarly awkward position. The yellow-and-blue has lost its last five league matches by a combined goal difference of 0-9 and Levin, who took charge two games into the season, has yet to guide the team to a single point. Maccabi hosts Bnei Yehuda on Saturday and Levin will be hoping the side's 2-1 midweek Toto Cup victory over Bnei Sakhnin will instill some confidence into the team. Bnei Yehuda has lost its last two league matches and is an ideal opponent for Maccabi to finally end one of the longest losing streaks in its history. Maccabi Netanya cemented its place as Israel's second best team with a 2-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa last week, its fourth win in a row. Netanya, which finished last season in second position, looks to be the only possible contender to Betar Jerusalem. The team has conceded the fewest goals in the league and is second only to Betar in goals scored. Maccabi faces a tough away match at Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Saturday. Kiryat Shmona's 2-2 draw against Hapoel Kfar Saba last week ended the team's perfect home record, but showed once more why the side is so difficult to defeat up north. Ironi equalized five minutes before the final whistle, despite being down to 10-men for the last 25 minutes of the match. Also on Saturday, Bnei Sakhnin, which is third in the standings, visits a Hapoel Kfar Saba team which hasn't won in five league matches. Ashdod SC, which has won its last two matches, hosts Maccabi Herzliya, which is just three points above the relegation zone. Maccabi Haifa hosts top of the table Betar in the final game of Matchday 8 on Sunday night.