Maccabi Tel Aviv needs striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson to return to form tonight when it faces Hapoel Beersheba in the Toto Cup final..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Even though Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Jordi Cruyff insisted otherwise, there is little doubt that the outcome of Thursday night’s Toto Cup final against Hapoel Beersheba in Netanya is of far greater significance to the yellow-andblue than it is to the two-time reigning Premier League champion and last season’s winner.
Three consecutive draws in league play have left Maccabi seven points back of Beersheba in the standings, and with its Europa League campaign coming to an end last week, the pressure on Cruyff is growing.
Maccabi desperately needs something through which to kick-start its season, something like a triumph over Beersheba in a final, albeit the final of Israeli soccer’s often overlooked second cup competition.
The group stage of the Toto Cup, played prior to the start of the Premier League campaign, is treated as nothing more than a pre-season competition.
Clubs of the likes of Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba generally use make-shift lineups in what is for them a glorified scrimmage. But both coaches will be fielding fullstrength teams on Thursday with the title on the line.
Maccabi last won the Toto Cup in 2014/2015, going on to claim an unprecedented local treble with league and State Cup triumphs.
Beersheba wants to emulate that achievement after missing out on the State Cup last season, winning the championship and the Toto Cup, but being knocked out in the round of 16 of the State Cup.
“It’s a competition that when you reach the final you want to win,” said Cruyff on Wednesday.
“We want to win and gain confidence from this game.
Obviously, we need to get confidence and momentum. The quality is there in the team, but we have to show winning character and a winning mentality.”
Beersheba beat Maccabi 2-1 despite playing with 10 men from the 20th minute when they met in league action for the first time this season at Turner Stadium in October.
“We are happy to be in the final for a second straight season and are hoping to defend the title,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar.
Cruyff admitted that Beersheba has been the strongest team in Israel over the past couple of years, but said he is focused on his side’s performance.
“In the last few years they have been the most strong team in the country,” noted Cruyff. “But for us it is also a good opportunity to show that we are capable of competing and that we also have a good squad. It is the final, there is no other opportunity so we’re going full out.”
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