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(photo credit: Noam Moskowitz)
Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy insisted on Tuesday that his players will not be complacent when they face Northern Ireland's Glentoran in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday.
Haifa is a firm favorite to overcome Glentoran and move slightly closer to securing a place in the group stage of European soccer's premier competition for the first time since 2003.
"Complacency is a sportsman's biggest enemy and we will do all we can to avoid such a situation," Levy said.
"We must be patient because this is a two-legged tie and we need to make sure we take that into account. We respect our opponent and are expecting a tough match."
Haifa and Glentoran have met once before, with Maccabi claiming a hard-fought 3-1 aggregate victory in the European Cup Winners Cup qualifying round in the 1998/99 season.
Glentoran won its 23rd league title after a three year drought last season and is currently coached by former Northern Ireland international Alan McDonald.
"I think Haifa is the favorite and we have received a tough draw," said McDonald. "Our goal is to make sure our fans have a reason to attend the return leg next week."
Former Blackburn Rovers player, Gary Hamilton, also tried to downplay his team's chances.
"We are a semi-professional team and Haifa is a big club," said Hamilton, who arrived late to the pre-match press conference as he wanted to finish his cigarette.
Georgian forward Vladimir Dvalishvili and Portuguese defender Jorge Teixeira are set to make their debuts for Haifa on Wednesday, with 38-year-old defender Alon Harazi, who played against Glentoran 11 years ago, expected to be handed a substitutes' role.
"Glentoran uses the long ball style of play and that makes them very dangerous," Harazi said.
"You must remain alert throughout the match, because if you fall asleep you will be punished, as we were against Glentoran in 1998. We had to work extremely hard to win that match."
Netanya disappoints with 0-0 draw in Malta
Maccabi Netanya recorded a disappointing 0-0 draw against Sliema Wanderers of Malta in the first leg of the Europa League's second qualifying round on Tuesday.
Netanya failed to break down the semi-amateur team's defense, despite facing only 10-men from the 58th minute.
Nevertheless, Maccabi will still be favored to progress when it hosts the return leg next Thursday.
"I'm very pleased," said new Netanya coach Nati Azariya after his first official match in charge at the club, which slashed its budget ahead of the coming season.
"We will return home and work on whatever needs improving. I'm very optimistic ahead of the second leg."
Bnei Yehuda will face Dinaburg FC of Latvia at Bloomfield Stadium in the Europa League's second qualifying round on Thursday, with the return leg to be played a week later.
Hapoel Tel Aviv will start the competition in its third qualifying round.