Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to do things the hard way if it’s to reach the
Champions League group stage after once more being handed the one opponent it
was hoping to avoid in Friday’s third qualifying round draw in Nyon,
Maccabi is set to face Swiss champion FC Basel, which
reached the last 16 in 2011/12, assuming the yellow-and-blue doesn’t suffer a
dramatic setback in the second leg of its second qualifying round tie versus
Gyori ETO at Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday.
Tel Aviv defeated Gyori 2-0
in Hungary in the first leg last week to take a massive step towards the next
stage. However, matters could have been far more straightforward for Paulo
Sousa’s men had they been handed an easier draw against the likes of Fola Esch
of Luxembourg, and Maccabi was done no favors once more on Friday.
has dominated the Swiss league in recent years, winning four straight
championships, and has risen to prominence in Europe over recent
Basel, 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 2011/12 before going on to defeat Bayern Munich 1-0, only
to suffer a 7-0 humbling in the return leg.
Maccabi can perhaps draw some
encouragement from the fact that Romanian champion CFR Cluj surprisingly knocked
out Basel in the Champions League playoff round last season.
Yakin’s team showed its class by rebounding with a run to the Europa League
semifinals, overcoming Tottenham Hotspur in the last eight before being ousted
“Despite being drawn against Basel, we remain completely
focused on overcoming Gyori,” said Sousa.
The first leg will take place
in Switzerland on July 30/31, with the return leg to be played at Bloomfield the
The winners in the third qualifying round will advance to
a playoff for a Champions League group stage berth, while the losers will be
handed a second chance in the Europa League playoffs.
All three Israeli
sides in the Europa League were given favorable draw in the third qualifying
round on Friday.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which effectively secured its progress
with a 4-1 win in Bulgaria over PFC Beroe in Thursday’s first leg, is set to
face either Levadia Tallinn of Estonia or Pandurii Târgu Jiu of Romania, who
drew 0-0 in their first leg in Estonia.
Maccabi Haifa has still got some
work to do after defeating Xazar Lankaran of Azerbaijan 2-0 at home, but it will
be extremely confident of booking a meeting with FK Ventspils of Latvia or
Jeunesse Esch of Luxembourg in the third qualifying round, with the Latvians
winning their first leg 1-0.
Hapoel Ramat Gan, which won the State Cup
last season after being relegated to the National League, will begin its
European adventure against GD Estoril- Praia of Portugal.
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