Israeli clubs eye progression in Europe

Champion Hapoel Beersheba still has plenty of work to do to secure its place in the third qualifying round on Wednesday.

July 16, 2017 08:42
2 minute read.
Israeli clubs eye progression in Europe

Anthony Nwakaeme (right) and Hapoel Beersheba were drawn to face either Zalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania or Ludogorets of Bulgaria in the Champions League third qualifying round, but will need to first overcome Honved in the second leg of the second qualifying round. (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)


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Israel’s four representatives in European competitions discovered the identity of their possible opponents in the third qualifying round of the Champions League and Europa League on Friday, assuming they first come through the second qualifying round later this week.

Champion Hapoel Beersheba still has plenty of work to do to secure its place in the third qualifying round on Wednesday, facing Honved in Budapest in the second leg after winning 2-1 at Turner Stadium last week.

Beersheba wasn’t seeded in Friday’s draw and avoided the likes of Olympiacos, Salzburg and Celtic, which beat it in the playoffs last season. Hapoel was paired with the winner of the tie between Zalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania and Ludogorets of Bulgaria.

Ludogorets has played in the Champions League group stage in two of the past three seasons, while Zalgiris has never reached the group stage of a continental competition.

Zalgiris claimed a surprise 2-1 win at home in the first leg last week.

Maccabi Tel Aviv is well placed to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League after claiming a 3-1 win over KR Reykjavik of Iceland last Thursday.

Should it avoid an upset in Iceland on Thursday, Maccabi will next come up against the winner of the tie between Panionios of Greece and Gorica of Slovenia.

Panionios registered a 2-0 win in the first leg in Greece.

Beitar Jerusalem faces a tough task in Thursday’s second leg against Botev Plovdiv of Bulgaria after being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home.

Maritimo of Portugal awaits the winner in the third qualifying round.

After recording a 1-1 draw against Trencin in Slovakia last Thursday, Bnei Yehuda will be confident of progressing in the second leg at home. However, it will need to register a massive upset to go any further, with Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia up next.

Elsewhere, French side Nice, spearheaded by maverick striker Mario Balotelli, was drawn against four-times European champions Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League third qualifying round.

Nice finished third in Ligue 1 last season while Ajax was second in the Dutch league and also reached the Europa League final where it lost to Manchester United.

Balotelli joined Nice on a free transfer from Liverpool before the start of the last season and revived his career as he scored 15 league goals. He extended his contract with Nice for another year last month.

Viitorul Constanta, the Romanian club founded, owned and coached by ex-international Gheorghe Hagi, was drawn against either Cypriot champion Apoel FC or Luxemburg’s FC Dudelange, one day after its first-ever league title was confirmed by a tribunal.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Thursday that Viitorul was the legitimate champions after it finished ahead of FCSB, formerly Steaua Bucharest, on their head-to-head record.

FCSB, which had challenged the rules of the championship and said it was the rightful winner, was also in the draw as league runner-up and will meet Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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