With Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba already both out of the Europa League, Ironi Kiryat Shmona looks to save Israeli soccer’s pride in the competition when it visits Dinamo Moscow in the first leg of the third qualifying round on Thursday night.
Tel Aviv and Beersheba were both sent packing in the second qualifying round, with Tel Aviv suffering a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Astana of Kazakhstan while Beersheba lost 2-1 to RNK Split over the two legs.
By virtue of winning the State Cup last season, Kiryat Shmona only begins its participation in the third qualifying round. However, it faces a tough task against Dinamo Moscow, which ended the Russian league in fourth place last season and sent six representatives to this summer’s World Cup.
Kiryat Shmona will use an almost identical lineup to the one it implemented last season, with coach Barak Bachar also still at the helm after guiding the side to a thirdplace finish in 2013/14, as well as the cup triumph.
“Even though this is the toughest draw we could have received I still believe we can beat them,” said Bachar.
Kiryat Shmona is hoping to emulate its achievement from the 2012/13 season when it reached the group stage of the Europa League. However, not only was it unlucky to draw Dinamo in the third qualifying round, but it will also have to host the second leg against the Russians next week in Nicosia, Cyprus due to the security situation in Israel.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Danny Amos will continue at Hapoel Tel Aviv despite his outburst towards manager Eyal Berkovic. Amos apologized for losing his temper at Berkovic and goalkeeping coach Yom Tom Elias, with whom he fell out last season, and will remain at the cash-stricken club after facing a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Star midfielder Gili Vermut will also continue at Hapoel after writing on Facebook that he has decided to “follow his heart”, while striker Omer Damari officially completed his move to Austria Wien.