Maccabi Tel Aviv defender Carlos Garcia (left) and Hapoel Beersheba striker Ben Sahar battle for the ball during last night’s 0-0 draw at Bloomfield Stadium..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem face two distinctively different challenges on Thursday night as they both aim to join Hapoel Beersheba in Friday’s Europa League group stage draw.
With a 2-1 advantage following a superior display in the first leg, Maccabi enters the return leg against Hajduk Split in Croatia extremely confident of progressing to the group stage of a continental competition for a second straight year after reaching the Champions League groups last season.
Beitar, on the other hand, faces an uphill battle in France where it visits Saint-Etienne following a 2-1 defeat in the first leg at Teddy Stadium last week.
After overcoming ND Gorica of Slovenia, Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan and Pandurii Targu Jiu of Romania to reach the playoffs, Maccabi has still got plenty of work to do in its final qualifier on Thursday.
Despite dominating the match, it only claimed a 2-1 victory last week thanks to Ezequiel Scarione’s winner in the 77th minute.
“The plan is to play our own game and not give up a goal,” said Maccabi coach Shota Arveladze. “We won’t change our style of play and we can’t change our style of play. We will not drop back. There may be some minutes where we need to defend but we are planning to play our football.
“At the end of the day we have enough experience to win the game. We always play to win. We began this summer with the goal of making it to the Europa group stages and we are almost there.”
Arveladze joined Maccabi earlier this summer following the departure of Peter Bosz. He said he is hoping to build on last season’s achievements, even though the yellow-and-blue failed to win any silverware.
“Last year was a big step for the club when they went to the Champions League group stages. Maccabi had a great year last year even though they didn’t win any prizes,” he explained.
“Having so many points in the league, Champions League and reaching the State Cup final, the club did many things positively. Everything is inches in football.
A post here or a post there and anything can be decided by these small amounts.
We always think that Maccabi has to be in the group stages of a European competition and it’s very important for the club.”
Beitar got last week’s first leg off to an ideal start, with Idan Vered scoring the opener after eight minutes. However, Jerusalem was brought back down to earth when Fabien Lemoine equalized just seven minutes later and Saint Etienne completed the comeback in the 30th minute courtesy of Florentin Pogba’s goal.
Beitar enters the second leg still reeling from Tuesday’s news that owner Eli Tabib will not be allowed to be involved in the running of the club over the next three years. The Israel Football Association’s ownership transfer committee came to its decision following Tabib’s conviction last June of assaulting a minor and of disruption of justice.
The committee didn’t bar Tabib from retaining his ownership of the club, but ordered him to disconnect himself from its running within 60 days by transferring the managing rights to a body of his choice.
There was more bad news for Beitar on Tuesday after the club was notified that it will have to host its next home match in Europe in front of empty stands and has been fined 62,000 euro by UEFA due to the racist chants made by its fans during the second leg against Jelgava in the third qualifying round.