Both Maccabis in second-leg Europa action

Yellow-and-blue down 2-1 as it hosts Olympiacos; Greens in Belarus clinging to 1-0 lead.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
They may have the same objective, but Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa face completely different propositions on their respective routes to the playoff round of the Europa League on Thursday night.
Tel Aviv was pleased with its 2-1 defeat to Olympiacos in Athens in the first leg of the third qualifying round last week, but even with a precious away goal, it has still got a mountain to climb at Bloomfield Stadium on Thursday.
Haifa, on the other hand, was disappointed with its minimal 1-0 victory over Dinamo Minsk at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in the first leg, but remains a clear favorite to advance to the next round in Belarus.
Tel Aviv enters Thursday’s return leg with plenty of confidence after its display in Greece and manager Avi Nimni is hoping the pressure of being the favorite will take its toll on Olympiacos.
“For Olympiacos to be knocked-out by Maccabi is a catastrophe,” Nimni said. “If we lose we will be disappointed, but will move on easily. The tie is in our hands and I hope we will be pleased with the result. The players know that they are facing a favored opponent, but they will try and record a stunning result.
“We were very optimistic before the first leg and remain so ahead of Thursday as well.”
The yellow-and-blue took a surprise lead in the 18th minute of the first leg through Haris Medunjanin, but after Albert Baning was sent off in the 60th minute, the Greeks took control and scored twice in the subsequent 13 minutes to secure a slender lead ahead of the return leg.
“The pressure always exists when you want to win,” Olympiacos coach Ewald Lienen said. “The players are used to it.
Maccabi proved that it is a good team, but if you want to advance in Europe you always aim to win every match.”
Olympiacos, which is playing in the Europa League after failing to claim the championship for just the second time in 13 years last season, is expected to make several changes to the team that started in Athens.
Greek international players Avraam Papadopoulos and Vasilis Torosidis are likely to bolster the team’s defense, but Albert Riera, who recently signed from Liverpool, will not play after remaining in Athens.
Maccabi will make just one change from last week’s lineup, with Shiran Yeini replacing the banned Baning.
Roberto Colautti will be the lone-striker once more, with Barak Itzhaki and Medunjanin providing support to the Israel international in Maccabi’s crucial search of a goal.
“We need to focus on ourselves and not on Olympiacos,” Colautti said. “We will have to play an open game to win and remain calm, patient and optimistic.”
Haifa had numerous chances to record a significant victory over Minsk in the first leg, but its tie still hangs in the balance after Vladimir Dvalishvili scored the only goal of the encounter in the 30th minute.
“I’m sure the match in Minsk will be completely different to the first leg,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “In European play you have to know how to play for a result.
“Although it is clear the Belarusians will attack us from the start we will not settle for just defending. I would have been calmer had we had a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, but even so we should be okay.”
Both Maccabis in second-leg Europa action Yellow-and-blue down 2-1 as it hosts Olympiacos; Greens in Belarus clinging to 1-0 lead MACCABI TEL AVIV midfielder Albert Baning (right) vies for the ball with Olympiacos’ Dennis Rommedahl (left) as Maccabi’s Yoav Ziv looks on during last week’s first-leg Europa League third round qualification match in Greece. Olympiacos claimed a 1-0 victory in that contest and will try to stave off Tel Aviv in tonight’s second leg at Bloomfield. Maccabi Haifa is on the road vs Dinamo Minsk.

On TV: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Olympiacos second leg (live on Sport 1 at 8:50 p.m.)