hapoel TA soccer 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv will host Tottenham Hotspur at Bloomfield Stadium in a mouthwatering tie in the UEFA Cup group stage on November 8.
The Israeli cup holder was also pooled on Tuesday in Nyon, Switzerland, with Belgian side Anderlecht, Spaniards Getafe and Danish club AaB Aalborg.
Hapoel travels to Belgian to face local giant Anderlecht in its first match of the group stage on October 25.
"Obviously this is a very tough draw," Hapoel coach Guy Luzon said. "We will begin to learn about our opponents in the coming days and we have plenty of work ahead of us.
"Our goal is clear and we will do all we can to meet it. We want to advance to the next stage."
The top three teams will qualify from the group, where they will be joined in the Round of 32 by eight teams eliminated from the Champions League group stage.
Tel Aviv reached the round of 32 of the UEFA Cup last season, eventually losing 5-2 on aggregate to Glasgow Rangers.
Hapoel, which defeated AIK Solna 1-0 on aggregate to advance to the group stage for a second straight year, will need to improve dramatically in the next few weeks if it's to continue to succeed in the UEFA Cup.
The team has faltered badly at the start of the Israeli Premier League season, drawing three and losing two of its first five matches. The Reds fell to a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to Maccabi Herzliya on Monday, but Tottenham manager Martin Jol nevertheless said he is wary of the Israeli club.
"People tend to underestimate the football in Israel, but they have got players there from all over the world so that could well be a tricky game and there is always a great atmosphere," the under-fire manager said.
"I am pretty satisfied with the draw. You can only assess it on
paper at the moment and my feeling is that it could have been a lot tougher for us."
Tottenham, which brushed aside Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta 7-2 on aggregate in the first round, has struggled in the English Premier League so far this season and is in 17th position with seven points after winning just one of its nine matches.
Jol has come under intense scrutiny as a result and it would be no surprise if Spurs will be guided by a different manager by the time they come to Tel Aviv in a months.
Like Tel Aviv and Tottenham, Anderlecht has also struggled in its local league this season and is currently sixth in the standings.
The side advanced to the group stage by defeating Rapid Vienna 2-1 on aggregate in the first round.
"It's a good draw for Anderlecht," coach Frank Vercauteren said on Tuesday.
"We avoided a number of top teams, on paper at least. But in this draw there is the danger of drawing conclusions too soon. People might say, 'Oh, that's going to be easy', but I don't believe that. So it is also a dangerous draw, because expectations will probably be high. Some of our opponents we know, some of them we have to discover, but they will all have their own qualities."
Former Hapoel midfielder Salim Toama, who moved to Belgian side Standard Liege this summer, said he was happy to hear Hapoel is coming to Belgium.
"Anderlecht may have begun the season poorly, but it is undoubtedly still the best team in Belgium," he told Hapoel's official Web site. "I will come and cheer Hapoel on and will help Guy Luzon with whatever he likes."
Hapoel faces Getafe in Spain in its penultimate group match on December 6.
The Spaniards are guided by former Danish star Brian Laudrup and reached the group stage by defeating Dutch side Twente on away goals (3-3).
Getafe has only collected two points in seven La Liga matches and is just one place off the bottom of the table.
Tel Aviv will complete its group matches on December 20 when it hosts Aab Aalborg.
The Danes are currently in fourth position in their local league, but knocked out Italian club Sampdoria on away goals (2-2) in the first round of the UEFA Cup to progress to the group stage.