UEFA Europa League: Bnei Yehuda's surprise success under threat against PSV

Hapoel Tel Aviv travels to the Czech Republic to play FK Teplice.

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August 20, 2009 07:07
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bnei yehuda 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Bnei Yehuda's flawless European campaign enters a whole new level on Thursday night when the team from southern Tel Aviv hosts PSV Eindhoven at Bloomfield Stadium in the Europa League playoffs. Guy Luzon's team has won all six of its matches in the Europa League qualifiers to date, defeating Simurq of Azerbaijan, Dinaburg of Latvia and Portugal's Paços de Ferreira by an impressive combined goal difference of 11-0. However, none of its previous opponents were anywhere near as good as PSV. Yhe former European Cup (1988) and UEFA Cup (1978) winner which usually plays in the Champions League group stage but was forced to settle for a place in the Europa League this season after only managing a disappointing fourth place finish last season. "We are facing the toughest team we could have been drawn against and, on paper, they are better than us in every aspect," said Luzon, who even went on to to tell the Dutch media that his club only has a one percent chance of advancing. "Eindhoven is a big European club, but I believe in our strengths. We will play with two strikers in order to pressure their defense and I believe that if we play the match of our lives we will certainly win." Eindhoven will be entering Thursday's match in high spirits after defeating archrival Ajax 4-3 in the Dutch league on Sunday. "PSV is, of course, the favorite," said coach Fred Rutten, who took charge of the team this summer. "We know about Bnei Yehuda's strengths. We saw DVD's of the team and sent a scout. I don't think they can surprise us with something we don't know. This is an important match for the club both from a financial and sporting angle." Bnei Yehuda will be without suspended striker Eliran Atar, with Moshe Biton expected to take his place in the lineup. "I've always dreamed of playing in these matches," said captain Asi Baldut, who will join Biton up-front. "Luzon has prepared us very well for the match and I hope we can win and take a lead into the return leg." Also Thursday, Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking for a positive result in its playoff first leg at Czech team FK Teplice. "After getting the better of a team like Göteborg, the expectations from us are much greater," Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. "We know what we are capable of, but we are also aware that we will be facing a team which climbed to third position in its league over the weekend." Hapoel all but booked its place in the playoff with a first leg 3-1 victory at IFK Göteborg, and Gutman is hoping for a similar result in Thursday's first leg. "If we dictate the pace of the match I believe good things will happen to us," Gutman said. Midfielder Michael Zandberg is also aiming for a win. "We want to claim a victory, but we know it will be hard," Zandberg said. "The most important thing is that we advance after the two legs."

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