Maccabi Tel Aviv faces a tricky tie for a place in the Europa League playoffs after being drawn on Friday to face Asteras Tripoli of Greece.
Maccabi is hoping to advance to the Europa League group stage for a second straight year after being knocked out in the Champions League third qualifying round last week following a 3-2 aggregate defeat to NK Maribor.
Asteras, which overcame Mainz 05 of Germany 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League third qualifying round, has risen to become one of the top teams in Greece over recent seasons, qualifying for continental competition in each of the past three years.
“This is a tough draw against a Greek team which managed to knock out Mainz,” said Maccabi coach Oscar Garcia. “We hope to play our home leg at Bloomfield and the fact that we are hosting the second leg means there is one more week for the situation to calm down.”
Maccabi will visit Greece in the first leg on August 21 before entertaining the return leg a week later.
In other Israeli soccer news, Dudu Aouate announced his retirement on Friday. The 36-year-old made a total of 78 appearances for the Israel national team, starting every one of the blue-and-white’s qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.
Aouate began his career at Maccabi Haifa and became the club’s No. 1 goalkeeper after spending three seasons at Hapoel Haifa. Aouate played in Spain over the past 11 seasons, signing for Racing Santander in 2003 before moving on to Deportivo La Coruna three years later. He joined RCD Mallorca in 2009 and is set to remain at the club in a managerial position following his retirement.
“With mixed emotions and with a heavy heart and after many years on the pitch I’m announcing my retirement,” an Aouate statement read. “I think I realized my potential and achieved all the targets I set myself.
Soccer gave me so many great and happy moments. I hope people remember me not just as a goalkeeper but as a human being.”