Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
After its preparations were overshadowed by the news of defender Shir Tzedek’s failed drug test, Hapoel Beersheba aims to already take a significant step towards the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday when it visits Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic.
Later Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to pick up its first points of the group stage when it hosts La Liga side Villarreal.
Beersheba defeated Lugano of Switzerland 2-1 in its Group G opener and a second straight victory would leave it in an ideal position to finish in the top two and reach the knockout rounds of the competition for a second consecutive year.
The two-time defending Premier League champion will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak in continental road action after falling to Ludogorets in the Champions League third qualifying round and losing to Maribor in the playoffs. Beersheba has won just one of its past six road games in Europe and its woes away from home haven’t been restricted to continental play. Hapoel could only manage a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Haifa in league action on Saturday, and it has won only one of its five road matches over all competitions this season.
Complicating matters even further is the club’s announcement from Tuesday that Tzedek had tested positive for a banned substance following the match against Maribor earlier this season.
Tzedek and Beersheba are waiting for the results of the B sample, but they believe that a food supplement, perhaps given to the defender during his time with the national team, was likely responsible for the banned substance entering his body.
Tzedek could face a suspension of up to four years, although similar cases from the past suggest he will not be banned for more than two years.
Tzedek was supposed to fly out to the Czech Republic with club owner Alona Barkat on Wednesday, but ultimately decided to remain at home.
Tzedek is available to play until his B sample is tested, but Beersheba has no intention of using him, leaving coach Barak Bachar without his two firstchoice central defenders, with Miguel Vitor still out injured.
Plzen suffered a 3-0 defeat to Steaua Bucharest in Romania in its group opener, but it extended its perfect local record with an eighth straight win on Saturday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped to a 1-0 loss at Slavia Prague in its Group A opener two weeks ago and a second straight defeat would leave it in a difficult position after just two contests. Group favorite Villarreal beat Astana 3-1 in its opener, but enters Thursday after a tumultuous week during which coach Fran Escriba was sacked following a poor start to the season. Javi Calleja was promoted to first-team coach on Monday.
Hemed suspended for three matches for violent conduct Brighton and Israel national team striker Tomer Hemed will serve a three-match ban after the English Football Association found him guilty of violent conduct.
Hemed scored the only goal in Brighton’s 1-0 win over Newcastle in Premier League action on Sunday. However, the Israeli was later involved in a clash with DeAndre Yedlin, and appeared to stamp on the Newcastle defender’s leg.
The Football Association subsequently charged Hemed with violent conduct.
He denied the charge, but an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing on Wednesday ruled against him.
“I accept the decision against me but do not agree with it and I am devastated to miss three matches,” Hemed wrote on social media. “I would never go out to injure a fellow professional on purpose, and those of my friends and teammates who know me, know that this is not in my nature. I will use the time to get stronger and come back hungrier to score more goals for Brighton in the Premier League.”
Hemed will miss Sunday’s trip to Arsenal, as well as the games against Everton and West Ham following the international break.