betar press conf 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The Israeli Premier League will only get underway in 10 days time, but Betar Jerusalem already faces its first moment of truth of 2007/08 season on Tuesday night.
The Israeli champion hosts FC Copenhagen in the second leg of the Champions League second qualifying round at Teddy Stadium and will need to overturn a 1-0 first leg loss if it's to play any further part in European competition this season.
Portuguese giant Benfica awaits the team which progresses on Tuesday, with the winner of the third and final qualifying round booking its place in the prestigious Champions League group stage.
Jerusalem coach Itzhak Schum, who has already led Maccabi Haifa and Greek club Panathinaikos to the Champions League, believes that Betar can advance even without playing outstanding soccer.
"I'm certain that if we play at our regular level we will progress," Schum said on Tuesday. "The players are ready and are aware of the importance of the match.
"They will know how to achieve the result we need. Copenhagen is a good team, but we can get the better of it."
Copenhagen, which played in the group stage of the Champions League last season, was far from impressive in its first leg victory. The Danes only goal came from an awful mistake by Betar keeper Tvrtko Kale and the side failed to extend its lead in the second half despite being a man up after Jerusalem midfielder Derek Boateng was sent off in the 52nd minute.
"I doubt Betar will manage to score three goals and I feel that one goal will be enough for us to advance," Copenhagen's Norwegian coach StÃ¥le Solbakken said on Monday.
"This is a Betar home game and because they're trailing they will need to attack at one stage or another. We will not play defensively, but we will know how to not concede a goal."
Copenhagen has won its last three matches in all competitions and recorded its second straight 1-0 victory on Saturday, defeating AGF in the Danish top division.
"Betar showed in the first leg that it's a very good team," veteran winger Jesper Gronkjaer said. "Jerusalem will have to push forward in search of a goal and we will try to take advantage of the space that will create."
Despite his first leg blunder, new keeper Tvrtko Kale will start in goal for the Israeli champion once more, with Arik Benado and Shimon Gershon expected to anchor the back four.
New Chilean signing Cristian Alvarez, who was impressive on his debut in Denmark, will play on the right side of defense, with Yoav Ziv again at left-back.
Schum will, however, be forced to make a change in the center of midfield, with Boateng suspended from the second leg after being sent off in Denmark.
Boateng was one of Jerusalem's better players in Copenhagen, before he was given his marching orders, and will be missed by Betar in the center of the field.
Chilean Milovan Mirosevic will likely replace the Ghanaian and team-up with Idan Tal and Gal Alberman at the center of midfield.
Barak Itzhaki and Michael Zandberg are expected to retain their places on the flanks, with new Brazilian signing Romulo tipped to replace Toto Tamuz as the lone striker.
"The result in Copenhagen wasn't a very good one, but our level of play there is encouraging," Ziv said on Monday. "We must score goals on Tuesday, but we need to play sensibly because if we concede we will have to score three goals.
"The Danes didn't play well in the first leg because we stopped them. However, we can't underestimate Copenhagen, they're a good team."
Schum is hoping his players can repeat their performance from the first leg, but knows that this time around they will need to score the goals that eluded them last week.
"I was pleasantly surprised with our play in the first leg," he said. "We've completed all our preparations for Tuesday's match and we must win the game.
"A 1-0 loss can be overturned, but it's not going to be easy because the Danes are a very good defensive team. Our many fans and the players will bring us the victory."