IRONI KIRYAT SHMONA coach Gili Landau 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona was handed the draw it was hoping for on Friday, being
paired with BATE Borisov of Belarus in the Champions League playoffs, with the
winner to advance to the prestigious group stage.
Celtic of Scotland,
Anderlecht of Belgium and Basel of Switzerland were some of the other teams the
Israeli champion could have faced, but while Kiryat Shmona will be delighted to
have avoided the bigger names, it will still enter the tie against Borisov as a
Kiryat Shmona came through two rounds of qualifiers to
reach this stage, beating MSK Zilina of Slovenia 2-1 on aggregate before
overcoming Azerbaijan’s Neftci PFK 6-2 over two legs.
However, it faces
an even tougher obstacle in Borisov, which is looking to reach the group stage
for a second straight season.
Borisov, the six-time reigning Belarus
champion, beat Vardar of Macedonia 3-2 on aggregate to progress to the
“We know we could have received a tougher draw,” said Kiryat
Shmona coach Gili Landau. “This is a difficult mission, but it is possible.
Clearly a team which drew with AC Milan last season is a strong
Kiryat Shmona will visit Minsk for the first leg on August 22,
before hosting the return leg at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on August
Even should Kiryat Shmona get knocked out in the playoff round, it
has already guaranteed itself continental soccer deep into the winter as the
losing teams in the 10 ties will progress automatically to the group stage of
the Europa League.
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s hopes of reaching the group stage of
the Europa League were handed a boost on Friday after the Reds were drawn to
play F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg in the playoffs.
Dudelange stunned Red
Bull Salzburg in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, but
suffered a double defeat to Maribor of Slovenia in the subsequent round to drop
to the Europa League and shouldn’t pose any real threat to Hapoel.
first leg will take place at Bloomfield Stadium on August 23, with the second
leg to be played in Luxembourg a week later.
“The level of play in
Luxembourg is on the rise, but we want to build on Hapoel’s tradition of success
in Europe and reach the group stage again,” said Hapoel coach Nitzan Shirazi.