Maccabi Tel Av iv’s Icelandic striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson admitted he is excited ahead of tonight’s clash with KR Reykjavik from his homeland in the first leg of the Europa League second qualifying round..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem aim to build significant leads when they host the first leg of their Europa League second qualifying round ties on Thursday, while Bnei Yehuda is hoping for a happy return to continental competition in what will be its first European encounter in five years.
Maccabi and Beitar completed first round victories last week, while Bnei Yehuda enters the competition in the second qualifying round by virtue of winning the State Cup last season.
Maccabi hosts KR Reykjavik of Iceland in Netanya, aiming to build on its 5-0 aggregate victory over KF Tirana of Albania.
The yellow-and-blue cruised to a 3-0 win on the road last week after claiming a comfortable 2-0 victory in the first leg.
Maccabi has since strengthened its squad, completing the signing of Cristian Battocchio on Monday.
The 25-year-old Argentine- born midfielder, who signed a two-year-deal with an option for a further season, joined on a free transfer after spending the last two seasons in France playing for Stade Brest.
He is available to play on Thursday, but isn’t expected to feature having only joined the team in training for the first time on Tuesday.
Reykjavik reached the second qualifying round after beating SJK of Finland 2-0 on aggregate.
The tie will be a special occasion for one Maccabi player in particular, with Icelandic striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson to face a team he knows well from his homeland.
“Of course I’m really looking forward to facing them,” he told the Maccabi website. “It’s going to be a special moment for me.
An Icelandic team has never reached the group stage before, but they will of course try to beat us and it will be a difficult game. The first game is going to be crucial and I hope we can beat them.”
Like Maccabi, Beitar is also only two matches into its season.
Nevertheless, there is already great excitement around the club regarding the team’s prospects for 2017/18.
The Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva, where Beitar is hosting Botev Plovdiv of Bulgaria as Teddy Stadium has been taken over by the Maccabiah, will be sold out on Thursday.
Beitar completed a 7-3 aggregate win over Vasas in Hungary in the first qualifying round last week, claiming a 3-0 victory in the second leg on the road.
There was no repeat of the drama from the first leg in Israel when Beitar required three goals in five minutes, including two in stoppage time, to register a dramatic 4-3 win.
Plovdiv completed a 4-1 aggregate win over Partizani of Albania last week with a 1-0 victory at home.
Also Thursday, Bnei Yehuda visits Trencin of Slovakia.
Trencin claimed an 8-1 aggregate win over Georgian side Torpedo Kutaisi in the first qualifying round.On TV:
Europa League second qualifying round, first leg: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs KR Reykjavik (live on Sport 1 at 6 p.m.); Beitar Jerusalem vs Botev Plovdiv (live on Sport 2 at 9 p.m.); Trencin vs Bnei Yehuda (live on Sport 1 at 9:30 p.m.)