Dela Yampolsky, Maccabi Haifa.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa has yet to officially secure its progress to the Champions League third qualifying round, but it has already turned its attention to facing NK Maribor next week after being drawn on Friday to play the Slovenian champion for a place in the play-off round.
Despite conceding an early goal, Haifa thrashed Bosnian champion FK Borac Banja Luka 5-1 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium last Wednesday, rendering this week’s return leg all but meaningless.
Maribor has also effectively clinched its place in the third qualifying round after beating Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange 2-0 on the road last week, meaning both the Slovenian and Israeli champions can essentially begin their preparations to face each other before their tie becomes official.
Haifa is set to host the first leg on July 26/27, with the second leg to be played in Slovenia a week later.
Maribor has reached the group stage of the Champions League once – in the 1999/2000 season – and remains the only Slovenian team to ever do so.
Darko Milanic’s team won just its second local championship in eight years last season, and since its historic achievement 12 years ago, has achieved little success in continental competition, failing to make it past the Champions League qualifying rounds on five occasions.
Israel’s three representatives in the Europa League also learned on Friday whom they are set to face for a place in the play-off round.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which will take a 3-1 lead into its second qualifying round second leg against Xazar Lankaran FK of Azerbaijan this Thursday, will look forward to facing the winner of the tie between FK Zeljeznicar of Bosnia and FC Sheriff of Moldova.
Zeljeznicar defeated Sheriff 1-0 at home in the first leg.
Bnei Yehuda, which all but booked its place in the next stage with a 2-0
road win over UE Sant Julià of Andorra, is already thinking of ways to
overcome Helsingborgs IF of Sweden.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which enters the Europa League competition in the third
qualifying round, is expecting to come up against FK Vojvodina of
Serbia, which beat Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz 2-0 on the road in the first
The matches will be played on July 28 and August 5, with Hapoel and Bnei
Yehuda to host their first legs, while Maccabi will play its return leg