Maccabi Haifa 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv are both in action during Matchday 2 of the UEFA Cup group stage on Thursday night, with the two teams needing wins for different reasons.
Haifa defeated Auxerre in emphatic fashion 3-1 at Bloomfield Stadium in Matchday 1 and a victory against Glasgow Rangers in Scotland will put the team within touching distance of the next, knockout stage of the UEFA Cup.
Tel Aviv, on the other hand, lost 2-0 in a disappointing manner to Panathinaikos in Greece two weeks ago, and if the team has any aspirations of advancing it will need to defeat Rapid Bucharest at Bloomfield on Thursday.
In the group stage, each team plays four matches, once against every other club in the group, and the top three finishers qualify for the next stage.
"We are playing good football but we aren't doing it consistently," said Haifa coach Roni Levy. "We want to string together a good run of results and we are hoping for a pleasant surprise on Thursday."
Levy will have a full squad to select his starting lineup from after the timely return to fitness of goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch and defender Adoram Keisi.
"Before a match, you don't want to settle for anything but a win, but we have to be realistic," Levy noted. "We are facing a strong side in front of 50,000 fans."
Rangers won their first UEFA Cup group match 3-2 against Livorno two weeks ago in Italy and, like Haifa, knows that a win on Thursday will put it in prime position to qualify for the next stage.
The Glasgow club is in third place in the Scottish Premier League, but has already fallen 12 points behind league leader and bitter rival Celtic. Rangers drew 1-1 with Motherwell in the SPL over the weekend, but manager Paul Le Guen remains optimistic.
"The squad was disappointed with Saturday's result but we are hopeful," the Frenchman said Wednesday. "We know that it will be a tough game against a very good team. But our good start in the competition is good for us and good for our state of mind. It is a good competition and our aim is to go as far as possible.
"I think our game against Livorno can help us to be more confident. We know we must win at least one more game and we have a good opportunity tomorrow evening, even though we know they are a good team."
Le Guen has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game at Ibrox, with stars Barry Ferguson and Dado Prso expected to be in the starting lineup.
"I have looked at the statistics and know that if we win this game, we will have almost qualified, but there is hard work to do," he said. "I saw the game against Liverpool and I am aware that they were a good team. It will be a tough game. They had a very good game against Auxerre, they won 3-1, and we showed part of the game to our players for them to have an idea of our opponents."
The importance of Tel Aviv's match against Bucharest is not lost on Hapoel coach Yitzhak Schum, who understands his squad will need to vastly improve on its showing two weeks ago.
"We are facing an important game that has become crucial after our defeat to Panathinaikos and we will do everything to win," Schum said. "In this competition, the team that gets more points at home qualifies for the next stage."
Rapid reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup last season, but has gone through a rough patch in the Romanian league recently. The team is only fifth in the standings, 16 points behind city rival Dinamo.
"If this was a home-andaway tie, I would certainly say we are favorites, but because we are playing one match at Hapoel's home field I can't say that," Rapid manager Razvan Lucescu said on Wednesday at the pre-match press conference.
"We are playing to win. Last year, we did very well in the UEFA Cup and our goal is to do well again this season and make Rapid a renowned club across Europe."
Lucescu is expected to start the match with an offensive lineup which will include veteran Romanian forward Viorel Moldovan.
Schum has a full squad to pick from and he claims that he knows exactly what his players have to do to win on Thursday. "I always tell my players that all they need to do is run faster and to want to win more than their opponents," he said.
"These are two things that we didn't pull off in our last game and tomorrow we will need to do them to win."
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