(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Haifa will be looking to snap its recent slump in a big way on Wednesday
night when it hosts Schalke 04 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Europa League
A victory for Haifa over the Germans will secure its progress to
the round-of- 32, while a draw or a defeat will leave the Greens depending on
the result in Group J’s other match between Steaua Bucharest and AEK
A draw in Romania will see Haifa progress regardless of the
outcome at Kiryat Eliezer, but Elisha Levy will be hoping his team can advance
without any favors.
However, Haifa has lost its last two matches in the
Premier League and in the Europa League, falling at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv
and Hapoel Haifa in local play while dropping to defeats at Bucharest and
Larnaca in continental action.
Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Hapoel in the
derby, the first Maccabi has suffered to its cross-town rival in over 10 years,
shook the club to its foundation, but Levy believes a positive result on
Wednesday could see Haifa embark on a new course.
“Soccer is a very
dynamic game,” he said. “I think that this type of match could actually bring
the best out of us.
We have so far failed to accomplish the targets we
set ourselves at the start of the season. But at the moment we need to focus on
the short term.
“First we must beat Schalke and then we can think of the
match against Maccabi Netanya.”
Schalke, which is currently in an
impressive third place in the Bundesliga, is guaranteed to finish top of Group J
regardless of Wednesday’s result and traveled to Israel without its coach and
several key players.
Coach Huub Stevens decided to stay behind after
being informed that his 85-year-old mother was ill, while the likes of Raul,
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lewis Holtby and Jermaine Jones also all remained in
Germany to save their strength for more important encounters.
will be coming with a weakened squad, but it has 35 excellent players and we
need to focus on our own performance,” Levy said.
“I’ve guided my teams
out of difficult situations before and I know how to deal with such scenarios.
Everyone at the club has made mistakes, but not ones that are
Midfielder Gustavo Boccoli exploded in the dressing room
after the loss to Hapoel, telling the young players to step up to the
responsibility of playing for the Greens.
“We are going through tough
times, but I’m sure we will overcome them,” Boccoli said. “Every player here
knows he can give a lot more.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv has lost any hope of
advancing from Group E, but it will be looking to save some pride when its
visits Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
Maccabi collected its one and only point
in the group stage when it drew 1-1 with Kiev at Bloomfield
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which also has no chance of progressing, hosts
Legia Warsaw in its final Europa group game on Thursday.