Israeli clubs get Euro campaigns underway

Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Riga hoping to make emphatic opening statement; Gilboa, Haifa, Netanya play away games.

November 16, 2010 04:57
3 minute read.
MACCABI HAIFA forward Sylven Landesberg

Maccabi Haifa 311. (photo credit: Maccabi Haifa website)

After coming so close to the Eurocup final four last season, Hapoel Jerusalem is looking to go one better in the coming campaign.

Hapoel begins its Eurocup regular season against VEF Riga at Malha Arena on Tuesday night, hoping to get off to a winning start after only barely coming through the first group stage to advance to the last 16 last season.

Also Tuesday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil will make its Eurocup debut at Cedevita Zagreb, while the EuroChallenge regular season also gets underway, with Maccabi Haifa visiting Skyliners Frankfurt and Barak Netanya traveling to Belgacom Liege.

Jerusalem was eventually edged by Alba Berlin in the Eurocup quarterfinals last season, and coach Oded Katash knows that if his team has any intention of reaching the knockout stages once more, it cannot afford a home defeat against Riga.

“We are facing a tough challenge and a big test over the coming weeks,” Katash said after seeing his team improve to 3-2 in the BSL with a road victory over Ironi Ashkelon on Sunday.

“We have quite a few players who are not accustomed to playing in European competition and are not used to playing two games a week. I believe it will take them a little time to get used to it. This will be quite a challenge, but we are embracing it.”

Jerusalem will be a firm favorite against a Latvian side which likes to run and dictate a fast pace to the game.

Riga looks to be the weakest team in Group G, which also includes strong Spanish side Cajasol Seville and Czech league perennial champion CEZ Nymburk, but Hapoel will still have to keep a close eye on playmaker Sandis Valters and dangerous scorer Kristaps Janicenoks.

“We are all excited ahead of the game against Riga,” Hapoel forward Dion Dowell said.

“This is our first chance to show what we can do in European competition and we will be ready to claim the win.”

Gilboa, which was handed a place in the Eurocup after falling to Serbia’s Hemofarm Stada Vrsac in the first qualifying round of the Euroleague, has got its season off to an erratic start.

The reigning BSL champion fell to 2-3 in the BSL after losing at home to Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Saturday and coach Lior Lubin is expecting a tough time against Zagreb.

“We are facing a team with a Croat character which plays hard defense and has players of a size we are not used to playing against in the BSL,” said Lubin, whose team will also play Aris Thessaloniki and Ukrainian league champ BC Azovmash in Group D.

“Our players are very excited and we are looking forward to the game.”

After overcoming Paris Levallois in impressive fashion in the qualifying round, Maccabi Haifa is looking to make some damage in the group stage, starting with its opener at Frankfurt.

“We are treating the EuroChallenge as a bonus and we hope to make the most of it,” said Haifa coach Elad Hasin, who will be looking for his team to rebound from Sunday’s league loss at Bnei Hasharon.

“We are going to Germany to win and I hope that we know how to cope with playing two games a week. Our goal is to advance to the next stage.”

Haifa also faces BT Ventspils of Latvia and Ukraine’s BC Khimik Yuzhny in Group B.

Netanya faces a Liege team which was knocked out in the qualifying round of the Eurocup by Jerusalem and has won just one of six games so far in the Belgian league.

Like Gilboa and Haifa, Netanya is also entering its continental opener on the back of a local defeat after falling to Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday.

“We are ready and are hoping to quickly correct the mistakes we made in Ashdod,” Netanya coach Arik Alfasi said ahead of Tuesday’s game.

On TV: Eurocup: VEF Riga at Hapoel Jerusalem (live on Channel 1 at 7 p.m.)

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