Champions League: Barcelona awaits Betar in round three

Winner of Jerusalem vs Krakow tie to play Catalan giant for place in CL group stage.

messi 88 (photo credit: )
messi 88
(photo credit: )
The stakes have been raised even higher. Betar Jerusalem found out on Friday that it will play Spanish giant FC Barcelona for a place in the Champions League group stage if it can retain its lead over Wisla Krakow in Wednesday's second leg of the second qualifying round. Jerusalem's management knew there was a possibility of being drawn against one of the biggest clubs in Europe when the third qualifying round draw was held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, with Juventus, Arsenal and Liverpool also possibilities. But the importance of next week's second leg grew much greater when the UEFA representative pulled the ball out of the glass bowl containing a small piece of paper with the word FC Barcelona printed on it. Betar General Manager Itzik Korenfine was in Nyon for the draw and expressed his excitement at the prospect of Jerusalem facing one of the most successful European clubs. Barcelona has won the Champions League twice, most recently beating Arsenal in the final in 2006. "There is a wide gap between our two clubs and it could be an experience. We are not, however, in this round only for the experience but are looking to advance," Korenfine said, looking forward to a possible tie with Barcelona. "I already received feedback from the players who said the draw has given them even more encouragement to move forward and get past the Poles [Krakow]. The former Betar goalkeeper, stressed the importance of focusing on Wednesday's game in Krakow. "[Betar coach Itzhak] Schum is focused on the match against the Poles and only afterwards will he look towards the next round," Korenfine said. "We need to focus on the game on Wednesday and do our job there." Betar pulled of an historic 2-1 win over Krakow in the first leg at Teddy Stadium on Wednesday night, and will go into next week's match confident of success while aware of the potential significance of the Polish team's away goal. The sending off of midfielder Marek Zienczuk for a second yellow card towards the end of last week's game could help the Israeli champion. Three Israeli clubs were also included in the draw for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup on Friday afternoon, and Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Netanya and Ironi Kiryat Shmona will all be satisfied with their opponents which stand between them and the first round proper. Kiryat Shmona has the most difficult tie of the three having drawn to play Bulgarian team Litex Lovech. Tel Aviv will face Serbian side FK Vojvodina while Lothar Matthaus's Netanya avoided former Italian champion Napoli in one of the last ties to be drawn out of the bowl and will play another Bulgarian team, Cherno More. The first legs will be played on August 14 with the second legs two weeks later. If Jerusalem is to beat Krakow then it will visit the vast Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona for the first leg on August 12 or 13 and host Pep Guardiola's team at Teddy on August 26 or 27. Barcelona had a disappointing campaign last season, finishing third in La Liga behind Champion Real Madrid and Villareal. However it has regrouped over the summer and the prospects of having to cope with an attacking force which includes Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, former Arsenal star Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta will strike a feeling of both fear and excitement into the hearts of all involved in Betar Jerusalem. Argentinian playmaker Lionel Messi is one star who will be unlikely to play for Barca, at least in the first leg, after FIFA ruled last week that he should be allowed to travel to Beijing to represent his country at the Olympics. Barcelona has only played an Israeli club once in the past, in 1995 when it faced Hapoel Be'er Sheba in the early rounds of the UEFA Cup. The Israeli club was way out of its depth against the Catalans, and crashed out 12-0 on aggregate. The last time Betar faced a team of this stature was in 1998 when it lost 6-0 at Portuguese giant Benfica in the first leg of a Champions League qualifier before winning 4-2 at home.