Despite needing a victory on Thursday night to keep alive its hopes of advancing
to the Europa League round-of-32, Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Yossi Abuksis has
already turned his focus to Sunday’s derby against Maccabi.
remained bottom of Group B with just a single point from three matches after
losing 2-1 to Viktoria Plzen two weeks ago and it will effectively lose any
realistic chance of progressing to the next round should it fail to beat the
Czechs on the road on Thursday.
However, it seems that coach Abuksis has
already given up all hope of advancing, saying that he will rotate his lineup on
Thursday to keep players fresh for the derby.
“This match is important,
but the derby is even more important,” said Abuksis, whose team currently trails
Premier League leader Maccabi by six points after losing its last two local
“We would have rather had this time to prepare for the derby,
but we have another match to come through and we will freshen up the team and
rest players for Sunday.”
Ironi Kiryat Shmona finds itself in an
identical situation to Hapoel in Group I, but at least the Israeli champion will
be facing Sparta Prague at home on Thursday.
Nevertheless, like Abuksis,
Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar does not believe his team has any real chance
of qualifying for the knockout stages and is mainly hoping to use the Europa
League as a platform to build confidence for the Premier League.
Shmona broke a nine-match winless streak in all competitions with a 1-0 win
against Hapoel Acre on Saturday and Bachar believes his team can avenge its 3-1
loss in Prague two weeks ago and claim its first-ever victory in the group stage
“Clearly the win over Acre gave us a lot of confidence,”
Bachar said. “We are now hoping to gather momentum with another win.”