Maccabi Petah Tikva will seek its first points in the UEFA Cup group stage on Thursday night, when it pays a visit to Brondby of Denmark in Matchday 2 of the competition.
After losing its first game of the group against Palermo two weeks ago, Petah Tikva is in desperate need of a positive result in Copenhagen to have a chance at advancing to the next round. Maccabi dominated the Italian side for large parts of the game at National Stadium in Ramat Gan and will be hoping for a repeat performance this time, but with a better outcome.
Petah Tikva traveled to Denmark having not won a game since beating Partizan Belgrade more then a month ago. Maccabi has struggled to recover from the historic UEFA Cup win and has lost two and drawn two in the Premier League as well as losing the opening UEFA Cup group match.
Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon has no doubt about the magnitude of the challenge ahead. "Brondby is clearly a better team and it's the favorite. It expects to win and qualify for the next stage, any other outcome would be a failure."
Despite being the underdogs, Luzon remains hopeful. "We're playing soccer and not basketball, so the favorites don't always win."
Luzon has almost a full squad to pick from with only injured midfielder Salim Touma definitely out.
Brondby, last years Danish double winners, has only missed one season of UEFA competition since its debut in 1986. The game against Petah Tikva is the Danes first in this year's UEFA Cup group stage after having a bye in the group's first matchday.
The biggest star of the club is actually the coach, former Danish international Michael Laudrup. The midfielder grew up in a soccer family, his father was a Danish international and his younger brother Brian was also a world class player, starring for, among others, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Chelsea.
Laudrup's professional career began at Brondby and he played for many European clubs including Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid, finally ending his playing career at Ajax Amsterdam. Laudrup appeared 104 times for the Danish national team scoring 37 goals.
"Maccabi beat Partizn Belgrade and is obviously a good side and a tough opponent." said Laudrup at a pre-match press conference. Despite the compliments, the coach expects only one outcome. "We should beat Maccabi at home and we are clearly the favorite."
Brondby's most dangerous player is Swedish international Johan Elmander. The 24 year-old forward has been highly regarded ever since his youth days moving to Dutch giants Feynoord as a teenager. Elmander didn't become a first team regular in the Netherlands and has found at Brondby the platform he was looking for to showcase his talents.
The Danes will be without defensive duo Thomas Rytter and Daniel Agger. Also missing is forward Morten Skoubo.
In the group's second match, leaders Palermo host Lokomotiv Moscow. Lokomotiv will hope to recover from its disappointing home loss against Espanyol and pick up its first points of the campaign . The winners, runners-up and the third placed clubs will all advance to the knockout stage.
On TV: Maccabi Petah Tikva at Brondby (live at 9:30 p.m. on Sport5+)