AFTER WINNING the Israeli championship last month, Hapoel Beersheba is ready to embark on its European cup qualification campaign..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The Champions League first-round qualifying draw was held on Tuesday, with Israeli champion Hapoel Beersheba chosen to meet Estonia champion Flora Tallinn. The first of the two-legged match will take place on July 10 or 11 in the Estonian capital, while the return leg will be held a week later, on either July 17 or 18, in Turner Stadium.
Relatively speaking, Flora is not a tough draw for Hapoel, which could also have been paired with Spartak Trnava, which is considered the strongest opponent among the candidates. Still, Flora is considered to be a very strong team in its homeland, and earlier this week demolished Olympic 16-0 in the first round of the Estonian Cup.
Among the titles Flora boasts since being founded in 1990 are 11 league championships, seven state cups and nine Super Cup conquests. Twenty-one years ago, Flora met an Israeli in Hapoel Petah Tikva in the UEFA Cup.
Gabor Marton scored in the 90th minute of the first leg to give host Petah Tikva a 1-0 victory. At home, Tallinn led the match, but Petah Tikva made a comeback thanks to goals by Yaniv Ofri and Motti Kakun, and came up with a double triumph to advance to the next stage.
If Beersheba pass the Estonian test, it should expect a difficult hurdle in the second round in Croatia champion Dinamo Zagreb.
“Every opponent is hard,” said an unnamed Beersheba player about the results of the draws: “Every lottery is tough and no opponent should be underestimated. Of course, Dinamo Zagreb is a big club with great European experience, but it’s not on our minds right now. First we have Tal-linn and then if we pass this challenge we will think about the opponent in the second round.”
Hapoel will also be drawn into the third round of the Europa League qualifiers, which it will only take part in if it fails against Flora in the first round of the Champions League, which is not really expected to happen.
Meanwhile, as soccer fans around the world are busy with the madness of the World Cup, Israeli clubs is already preparing for the next season of the Premier League. The draw for 2018/19 took place on Tuesday morning at the Netanya Stadium, with the first round of matches taking place on August 25.
Maccabi Tel Aviv got arguably the toughest opening schedule, with Vladimir Ivic’s yellow-and-blue meeting Maccabi Haifa in the first round, a week before traveling to Turner to face reigning-champions Hapoel Beersheba. The Tel Aviv derby is back and will be held in the fifth round, a week before a tough match against for Maccabi Beitar Jerusalem in Teddy.