Hapoel Tel Aviv Coooold 311 Hapoel Web site.
(photo credit: Courtesy: Hapoel Tel Aviv web site)
Hapoel Tel Aviv has recorded many famous victories in European play in the past. However, it will have to claim arguably the greatest win in its continental history at Bloomfield Stadium on Thursday night if it’s to erase a 3-0 deficit against Rubin Kazan and advance to the Round of 16 of the Europa League.
Hapoel froze, both figuratively and literally, in Russia last week, never finding its footing in the sub-zero temperatures and digging itself into a massive hole against the Russian champion.
However, coach Eli Gutman believes Tel Aviv is not out of the competition just yet and is capable of overturning last week’s first leg defeat.
“We will try to play the match without thinking of the first leg result,” Gutman said on Wednesday.
“If we only think of the first leg we will not be able to approach the encounter properly. We first and foremost want to win this match.”
Despite needing to score at least three goals, Gutman will not be be too adventurous on Thursday as he is wary of Kazan’s breaks forward.
“We must remain focused throughout the match and not leave ourselves vulnerable to Kazan’s surges forward,” Gutman said.
“Kazan is an excellent team and the fact that we failed to score in Russia leaves us in a problematic position.”
Left-back Dedi Ben-Dayan will miss the match through injury, but Gutman otherwise has a full-squad to pick from, with star striker Itai Shechter to start despite suffering a shoulder injury in the 4-2 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday.
Two first-half goals from Aleksandr Bukharov (14, 23) and Sergei Semak’s strike (69) gave Kazan an easy victory last week, but coach Gurban Berdiyev is not taking anything for granted ahead of the return leg.
“Hapoel Tel Aviv is a team with character,” he said. “We have no doubt that Hapoel can play better than it did in the first leg. The tie isn’t over. We came to Israel on Saturday for a training camp and made the best possible preparation for this match.”
Tel-Aviv won all three of its group games at Bloomfield earlier this
season, beating Celtic, Rapid Vienna and Hamburg, and defender Douglas
da Silva is confident the team will triumph once more on Thursday.
“We need to remain calm and if we can take a 1-0 lead into the break we
will be happy,” the Brazilian said. “It will be difficult to overturn
the deficit but not impossible. I believe we can do it.”