Beitar Jerusalem striker Itay Shechter..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Maccabi Tel Aviv should have little trouble progressing to the Europa League playoffs on Thursday night, while Beitar Jerusalem will also be confident of advancing to the final qualifying round.
After claiming a 3-1 win over Pandurii Targu Jiu in Romania last week, Maccabi could probably field a weakened lineup in the second leg of the third qualifying round in Netanya and still advance comfortably.
“We played well in the first leg and could have recorded a better result,” said Beitar coach Ran Ben-Shimon. “The players are improving with every match and I believe that we will complete the job in front of our fans at Teddy.
If we fail to progress it will be because we probably deserve no better.”
Beitar is already experiencing arguably its best ever continental campaign, winning two straight ties for the first time in club history after failing to do so in its previous eight appearances in Europe.
Maccabi is aiming to reach a group stage for a second straight year after participating in the Champions League group stage last season.
The yellow-and-blue began its current continental campaign in the first qualifying round of the Europa League, a consequence of last term’s failure to claim a title.
“We scored the first goal and that opened the game up for us,” said Maccabi coach Shota Arveladze following the first leg. “It’s a big advantage to score three away goals but we will be ready for the next game and I look forward to the next challenge. Emotions are always good when you win and as a coach we have to see what we did well and what we didn’t.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi sports director Jordi Cruyff is continuing in his efforts to bolster the squad before the close of the summer transfer window.
According to the Washington Post, Maccabi has increased its offer for D.C. United’s Jewish defender Steve Birnbaum to $1.5 million. However, it makes little sense for United to sell the player at this timing as it would only be able to collect half of the fee, with the MLS, which owns all player contracts, to receive the other half.
If United waited until this winter when Birnbaum has completed three full seasons, its share of any sale would rise to two-thirds.
Maccabi’s pursuit of Israel international Tomer Hemed has also proven to be fruitless so far, with the club’s latest offer of two million euros being turned down by Brighton of the English Championship.