Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa insisted on Monday that the yellowand- blue will be a clear underdog when it visits Hungarian champion Gyori ETO in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round on Wednesday.

Maccabi left for Hungary on Monday ahead of the start of its European campaign, hoping to take a first step towards qualification for the Champions League group stage for the second time in club history and for the first time since the 2004/2005 season.

However, the team’s progress to the third qualifying round is far from a given after it was handed a tough draw in Gyori, which ended a 30-year wait for the Hungarian top-flight title last season, clinching the championship with three matches to spare.

To reach the group stage Maccabi will need to not only overcome Gyori, but also triumph in two more home-andaway ties in the third qualifying round and the playoff stage.

Sousa, who joined Maccabi as Oscar Garcia’s replacement just one month ago, said on Monday that he was “happy” with what he has seen from his team so far, but still believes Gyori is the favorite.

“I think they have a much better chance than us,” he said before explaining.

“They have had the same coach for three seasons. They have players in key positions that have been playing together for years. They practically destroyed Debrecen in the Hungarian Super Cup on Saturday and they are in form.”

Nevertheless, Sousa tried to remain upbeat, while claiming that Maccabi’s true goal this season is local rather than continental.

“I’m a positive coach and person and what I know about my players gives me the conviction that we are ready,” he said. “For us the Champions League is a dream. Our main target is to consolidate our position at the top of Israeli football.

We can not forget that last season we won the league after 10 years. We want to realize our Champions League dream because for the club it’s important as it brings money, prestige and recognition.

“For the players it brings the possibility to compete at a higher level and increase their value in the market. For our fans it brings the possibility to display their love for the club not only here but abroad, and for myself it brings huge prestige to come here and lead Maccabi in Europe. This is what we want to achieve, but it is not our main target.”

Gyori announced that it will impose strict security measures for the match against Maccabi in order to avoid similar incidents to the ones that happened during last year’s friendly international between Hungary and Israel.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee sentenced the Hungarian national team to play March’s World Cup qualifier against Romania in front of empty stands after being informed by FARE (Football Against Racism Europe), the Vienna Israelite Community and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that a group of supporters had chanted anti-Semitic slogans and displayed other offensive symbols.

As a result, Gyori asked police to designate Wednesday’s game as a high-risk event, while calling on the Hungarian Football Federation to help it implement preventive measures before and during the match.

Gyori officials also contacted the Israeli ambassador to Budapest to ask for help and get him involved in the organization of the game.

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