Greens gung-ho on advancing without help

Mac Haifa hosts Schalke looking for a win to clinch round-of-32 berth; Mac TA visits Kiev.

Boccoli_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Haifa will be looking to snap its recent slump in a big way on Wednesday night when it hosts Schalke 04 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Europa League action.
A victory for Haifa over the Germans will secure its progress to the round-of- 32, while a draw or a defeat will leave the Greens depending on the result in Group J’s other match between Steaua Bucharest and AEK Larnaca.
A draw in Romania will see Haifa progress regardless of the outcome at Kiryat Eliezer, but Elisha Levy will be hoping his team can advance without any favors.
However, Haifa has lost its last two matches in the Premier League and in the Europa League, falling at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa in local play while dropping to defeats at Bucharest and Larnaca in continental action.
Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Hapoel in the derby, the first Maccabi has suffered to its cross-town rival in over 10 years, shook the club to its foundation, but Levy believes a positive result on Wednesday could see Haifa embark on a new course.
“Soccer is a very dynamic game,” he said. “I think that this type of match could actually bring the best out of us.
We have so far failed to accomplish the targets we set ourselves at the start of the season. But at the moment we need to focus on the short term.
“First we must beat Schalke and then we can think of the match against Maccabi Netanya.”
Schalke, which is currently in an impressive third place in the Bundesliga, is guaranteed to finish top of Group J regardless of Wednesday’s result and traveled to Israel without its coach and several key players.
Coach Huub Stevens decided to stay behind after being informed that his 85-year-old mother was ill, while the likes of Raul, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lewis Holtby and Jermaine Jones also all remained in Germany to save their strength for more important encounters.
“Schalke will be coming with a weakened squad, but it has 35 excellent players and we need to focus on our own performance,” Levy said.
“I’ve guided my teams out of difficult situations before and I know how to deal with such scenarios. Everyone at the club has made mistakes, but not ones that are irreversible.”
Midfielder Gustavo Boccoli exploded in the dressing room after the loss to Hapoel, telling the young players to step up to the responsibility of playing for the Greens.
“We are going through tough times, but I’m sure we will overcome them,” Boccoli said. “Every player here knows he can give a lot more.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv has lost any hope of advancing from Group E, but it will be looking to save some pride when its visits Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
Maccabi collected its one and only point in the group stage when it drew 1-1 with Kiev at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which also has no chance of progressing, hosts Legia Warsaw in its final Europa group game on Thursday.