Soccer: Yellow-and-blue eyes next round; Greens seek momentum

November 28, 2013 00:26

Maccabi Tel Aviv will secure its progress to the Europa League knockout rounds should it defeat APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus on Thursday night.

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ERAN ZAHAVI celebrates with his Maccabi Tel Aviv teammates.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi 370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

Maccabi Tel Aviv will secure its progress to the Europa League knockout rounds should it defeat APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus on Thursday night.

Maccabi recorded an impressive 4-2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in its previous Group F match and even a draw with goals will see it guarantee its qualification to the round of 32 with one game to spare, assuming Girondins de Bordeaux doesn’t beat Frankfurt.

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Tel Aviv hosts Bordeaux in its final group match in two weeks.

Maccabi and APOEL drew 0-0 in their group opener at Bloomfield Stadium two months ago after Barak Itzhaki failed to convert a penalty kick deep into stoppage time.

However, he has since repaid his team for that miss, scoring a goal in the 2-1 win at Bordeaux and netting a brace in the victory over Frankfurt.

Star midfielder Eran Zahavi, who missed Saturday’s 3-1 league win at Hapoel Haifa, flew with the team to Cyprus, but remains an injury doubt for Thursday’s encounter.

“We have a deep squad with many good players and we won without Eran on Saturday,” said captain Shiran Yeini. “Of course he is an important player. He’s the best player in the league, but if he can’t play we will have to manage without him.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa has lost any realistic hope of advancing to the next stage after picking up just two points from its first four Group L matches.

However, after winning two straight Premier League games for the first time this season and drawing with PAOK Thessaloniki in their most recent Europa League encounter, the Greens are hoping to build upon the sparks of positive momentum at AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night.

“Even though we lost to Alkmaar at home we were clearly the better team,” said Haifa coach Arik Benado. “We are facing a tough road match, but we will try to win.”

Israeli soccer mourns Einstein

Haifa will play with black armbands on Thursday to mark the passing of legendary singer and huge sports and soccer fan, Arik Einstein.

The Israel Football Association also announced on Wednesday that all of this weekend’s Premier League and National League matches will begin with a round of applause to honor Einstein.

Einstein was best known in the sporting world as a fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv and the club promised on Wednesday to commemorate him.

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