Another trip through the grinder for Mac TA

Out-of-its-league yellow-and-blue still searching for first goal of group stage as it visits Porto

October 20, 2015 03:41
3 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Gili Vermouth (center) has discovered how difficult life can be in the Champions League group stage, and it won’t be getting any easier for the yellow-and-blue on Tuesday night on the road against Porto.. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)


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While it is only two matches into its Champions League group campaign, Maccabi Tel Aviv seems to already be playing for pride.

Maccabi enters Tuesday’s encounter against Porto in Portugal with a modest target. The three-time reigning Israeli champion would of course love to register a stunning upset, but considering the circumstances would likely simply settle for scoring a goal.

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Maccabi remained in last place in Group G with zero points and a 0-6 goal difference after being outplayed in a 2-0 defeat at home to Dynamo Kiev three weeks ago following the 4-0 loss to Chelsea in its group opener at Stamford Bridge.

Even though Maccabi still has four more matches to play, it is already facing questions regarding the prospect of the team joining the 2009/10 Maccabi Haifa as the only sides in the history of the competition to end the group stage without picking up a point or scoring a goal.

The match in Porto is arguably the toughest Maccabi will face in Group G, with the hosts owning an amazing perfect record at Estadio do Dragao in 2015. Porto has won every one of its 18 home matches over all competitions this year, amassing a combined goal difference of 49-4. The magnitude of the task facing Maccabi is clear when considering that even the likes of Bayern Munich and Chelsea couldn’t avoid defeat at the Dragao.

Porto, which reached the Champions League quarterfinals last season, was denied a win in its group opener in Kiev by a last-minute equalizer, which leveled the score at 2-2, before beating Chelsea 2-1.

Veteran Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas is the biggest name on Julen Lopetegui’s squad, which is packed with quality.

“I always believe that we can win every game,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic. “We will go there and try to be as organized as possible. We will fight on the pitch and we’ll work very hard.

We’ll come into the match with a lot of ambition and optimism. The club waited 11 years to be here and we now see how difficult a competition this is. Porto will be a challenge and we will try to surprise them.”

Nosa Igiebor, Dejan Radonjic, Eli Dasa and Yuval Shpungin are all out through injury after also missing Saturday’s 2-1 win at Maccabi Petah Tikva which kept Tel Aviv in first place in the local league standings.

Maccabi is the fifth Israeli side to reach the Champions League group stage, with Maccabi Haifa (2009/10), Hapoel Tel Aviv (2010/11) and Maccabi themselves (2004/05) all losing their first three games.

Only the 2002/03 Maccabi Haifa collected points in any of the first three contests.

“We want to take some points and make sure we get something out of this campaign,” said midfielder Eran Zahavi, who scored seven goals in the qualifiers but has yet to find the back of the net in the group stage.

“We achieved our goal of making it to this tournament but now we have to try and get something out of it, play solid football and show that we have something to offer at this level. I believe in our team and I hope we can do something on Tuesday.”

In other Group G action, Dynamo Kiev hosts Chelsea. A win against Kiev will not only help swing the initiative in the group Chelsea’s way, but also prove theat Jose Mourinho’s men may be getting back on track after their below-par campaign so far, with the club enduring its worst start to a domestic league season in 37 years.

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