Maccabi Tel Aviv Champions 370.
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website )
Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa insisted that his players remain focused on
completing the job against Hungarian champion Gyori ETO on Tuesday, despite
being just a week away from a likely meeting with FC Basel in the Champions
League third qualifying round.
Maccabi outplayed Gyori in the first leg
of the second qualifying round last Wednesday to claim a 2-0 advantage on the
road and all but secure its progress.
However, Sousa believes there is no
room for complacency at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday, even though he couldn’t
help but admit that his team has a very significant lead.
“The main thing
I passed to my players is that we cannot drop our concentration,” Sousa said on
Monday. “We have still not passed this round. We are completely focused on this
game and after we pass it we will have time to consider our next
Despite a promising display from the first whistle, Maccabi
had to wait until the 76th minute to take the lead in Hungary through Barak
Itzhaki, with Gal Alberman scoring four minutes into stoppage time to
effectively end Gyori’s hopes.
Rade Prica will miss the second leg due to
a back injury, and is expected to be replaced by Tal Ben-Haim. However, Sousa
will likely keep faith with the rest of the lineup that started in
“We need to control the emotions and I think we have the maturity
to do so because most of the players are used to playing here with our fans,” he
said. “I want to see my team play with a pattern all the time, with a hunger and
desire to steal the ball and the potential to dominate.”
handed what was probably the toughest draw possible in the third qualifying
round on Friday when it was paired with Swiss champion Basel.
dominated the Swiss league in recent years, winning four straight championships,
and has risen to prominence in Europe other recent seasons.
currently coached by Murat Yakin, defeated Manchester United 2-1 to progress to
the last 16 of the Champions League at the expense of the English giant in
2011/2012 before reaching the Europa League semifinals last season.
first leg will take place in Switzerland on July 30/31, with the return leg to
be played the following week.
Despite the somewhat ominous prospect of
facing Basel, Maccabi will still be guaranteed at least four more matches in
continental competition assuming it advances past Gyori on Tuesday.
winner in the third qualifying round will advance to a playoff for a Champions
League group-stage berth, while the loser will be handed a second chance in the
Europa League playoffs.
Gyori will be without banned head coach Attila
Pinter once more on Tuesday, but he remains optimistic of his team’s
“This is a very beautiful country and we are enjoying our stay,
but this isn’t the reason we have come,” said Pinter, who was banned due to
unruly conduct for two European matches.
“We are hungry and we believe we
have a chance to advance. It is going to be a difficult mission for us because
we all know what happened in the first leg. But we think we can still win the