Hapoel Beersheba, Maccabi Tel Aviv set for crucial contests
Beersheba hosts Group G leader Steaua Bucharest of Romania, while Maccabi visits FC Astana in Kazakhstan.
By ALLON SINAI
After getting their Premier League campaigns back on track and before they face each other next week, Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv are eyeing significant victories in Europa League action on Thursday night.Beersheba hosts Group G leader Steaua Bucharest of Romania, while Maccabi visits FC Astana in Kazakhstan.Beersheba needed three late goals to overcome rock-bottom Hapoel Ra’anana 3-1 in local league play on Saturday, registering only its third win in six matches to date. Maccabi beat Bnei Yehuda 2-0 on Sunday for its first victory after two consecutive draws.Beersheba, which hosts Maccabi next Monday, was beaten 3-1 at Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic in its most recent Europa match, leaving it on three points after defeating Lugano of Switzerland 2-1 in its opener.The two-time reigning Israeli champ has lost three straight road games in Europe, winning just one of its past seven away matches stretching back to last season.Its record at Turner Stadium however, is superb, with Beersheba winning all four of its home matches in European action so far this season.Beersheba coach Barak Bachar was furious with his players after the win over Ra’anana, with the team trailing until the 77th minute before scoring three goals in 10 minutes.Advertisement“This was the team’s worst game since I have been the coach,” said Bachar, who is in his third season at the club. “I will not allow this to continue.”Steaua has a perfect record after two matches in Group G, beating Plzen 3-0 and Lugano 2-1.Maccabi Tel Aviv picked up its first point in Group A when it held Villarreal to a 0-0 drew.However, it is against Astana and Slavia Prague, which beat it 1-0 in the opener, that it will likely need to battle for second place in the group and progress to the knockout rounds.Astana also has a single point from its first two matches, losing 3-1 at Villarreal while drawing 1-1 at home with Slavia.“Many people aren’t familiar with Astana as we weren’t until we saw videos of them,” Maccabi defender Ofir Davidzada told the club’s website. “They have some very good, quality players who play aggressively.”Davidzada isn’t concerned about the synthetic pitch at Astana Arena and is confident Maccabi can take the three points.“If we don’t win things will get complicated for us to advance,” he explained. “A win will put us in a very good position. This is definitely one of the most important games of this campaign and hopefully we will get the result that we are hoping for.”On TV: Europa League Group Stage: FC Astana vs Maccabi Tel Aviv (live on Sport 1 at 6 p.m.); Hapoel Beersheba vs Steaua Bucharest (live on Sport5+ at 8 p.m.)
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