Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maharan Radi aims to help his team to the Israel Super Cup tonight when the reigning Premier League champion faces State Cup holder Bnei Yehuda..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
While Hapoel Beersheba is already well into its preparations for next week’s Champions League playoff first leg against Maribor of Slovenia, the two-time reigning Israeli champion is not overlooking Thursday’s Israeli Super Cup showdown with Bnei Yehuda in Netanya.
Beersheba began last season with a win over Maccabi Haifa in the Super Cup before going on to defend its Premier League title after also claiming the Toto Cup.
The only piece of local silverware it missed out on was the State Cup, won by Bnei Yehuda with a surprise victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final.
Beersheba is optimistic about reaching the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in club history after avoiding the big names in the playoffs and being drawn against Slovenian champion NK Maribor.
Regardless of the outcome of its playoff tie, Beersheba has already guaranteed itself continental play deep into the winter. The 10 teams to lose in the Champions League playoffs will be handed a berth in the Europa League group stage.
Beersheba has also already secured itself a big pay day of around 5.6 million euro from UEFA prize money alone. That sum will more than double should it go on to reach the group stage of the Champions League.
Hapoel will be playing for the second time in three days after defeating Ashdod SC 2-0 on Tuesday to advance to the Toto Cup quarterfinals.
Coach Barak Bachar used a make-shift lineup in all three of his team’s Toto Cup group stage encounters, ensuring his most important players would be ready for Champions League action. Beersheba hosts Maribor in the first leg of the playoffs next Wednesday.
“We will be playing for our first title of the season on Thursday and will be using a strong lineup in order to win the Super Cup,” said Bachar.
“It will help us be ready for the most important match in club history against Maribor next week. Our schedule has been hectic, but we asked to move the game against Ashdod so we would complete the Toto Cup group stage before the playoffs, ensuring we have time to prepare for this crucial tie.”
Bnei Yehuda enters the match after an encouraging start to the campaign. Yossi Abuksis’s team was knocked out in the third qualifying round of the Europa League last Thursday, but only after it stunned Russian powerhouse Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 in Russia in the second leg. Zenit progressed to the playoffs after claiming a 2-0 victory in the first leg in Petah Tikva.
“We will have to play at the level we did against Zenit to get something out of this match,” said Bnei Yehuda coach Abuksis.
“We will have to play an outstanding match in order to win. This is a very big challenge for us.”
Bachar is expecting Bnei Yehuda to provide a stern test.
“Bnei Yehuda is a well coached team and they will try and close down the game and hit us on the break the way they did against Zenit,” explained Bachar. “It is always a challenge to face a team coached by Abuksis. This match should prepare us well for Maribor.”