Maccabi Tel Aviv players (including Rade Prica, center) have turned their full focus to Tuesday’s Champions League second qualifying round first leg at Santa Coloma of Andorra after arriving in Barcelona yesterday..
(photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV WEBSITE)
Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba have begun to make alternate plans for next week’s home fixtures in European competitions due to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza to Israel.
UEFA has yet to make a decision regarding next week’s Champions League and Europa League qualifiers, but an announcement is expected in the coming days depending on developments.
All three Israeli clubs are still hoping to be able to host their matches as planned, but are preparing for the possibility that they will be told to play next week’s first legs abroad.
Maccabi is scheduled to host Santa Coloma of Andorra in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round at Bloomfield Stadium next Tuesday.
Maccabi has already received Santa Coloma’s approval to switch home-court, meaning the Andorrans will host the first leg instead of the second, assuming UEFA determines that the match can’t take place in Israel.
In the Europa League second qualifying round, Hapoel Tel Aviv will face either Astana of Kazakhstan or Pyunik of Armenia at Bloomfield next Thursday while Hapoel Beersheba will welcome either RNK Split of Croatia or Mika of Armenia in Petah Tikva also on Thursday.
Mika hosts Split in the second leg of the first qualifying round this Thursday, with the Croatians holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg. Astana beat Pyunik 4-1 on the road in their first leg ahead of Thursday’s match in Kazakhstan.
Santa Coloma won its first ever tie in European competition on Tuesday thanks to a 95th-minute goal by goalkeeper Eloy Casals. FC Banants of Armenia still won the second leg 3-2, but Casals’s strike ensured the Andorrans advanced on away goals, tying the aggregate score at 3-3 after Santa Coloma claimed a 1-0 victory at home.
Santa Coloma’s only previous win in a European match came against Maccabi Tel Aviv of all teams. The yellow-and-blue suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Andorra in the first leg of the UEFA Cup first qualifying round in 2007/08 before securing its progress with a 4-0 home victory.
Maccabi’s Spanish coach Oscar Garcia returned to the club this summer after spending a year in England, leaving Tel Aviv last May due to what he described as “personal reasons”.
Oscar never hid that one of the main reasons for his decision to leave Israel was due to his wish to be closer to Spain and his two daughters from his first marriage, especially with the concern raised by his family during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Oscar’s then-assistant coach Gerard Autet left the club in late November and never returned, and it remains to be seen how his current staff will cope with the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.
Hapoel Beersheba, which will be playing in European competition for the first time since 1998, is currently holding a training camp in Poland and will decide whether to relocate up North the way it did during Operation Pillar of Defense when it returns on Thursday.
Beersheba’s squad has already been affected by the numerous sirens in the city in recent days, with striker Glynor Plet leaving the club on Tuesday and midfielder Marco Caligiuri’s transfer falling through.
Plet activated the buy-out clause in his contract after being offered a deal in Belgium, although the security situation is said to have had a bearing on his decision.
Caligiuri asked to insert a clause which would allow him to leave the club in January, something Beersheba was unwilling to accept.