Hap TA, K8 both look to climb out of cellar

Both teams hoping to improve their standing, advance to next stage in Europa League.

Hapoel Tel Aviv's Tal Ben-Haim 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hapoel Tel Aviv's Tal Ben-Haim 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite needing a victory on Thursday night to keep alive its hopes of advancing to the Europa League round-of-32, Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Yossi Abuksis has already turned his focus to Sunday’s derby against Maccabi.
Hapoel remained bottom of Group B with just a single point from three matches after losing 2-1 to Viktoria Plzen two weeks ago and it will effectively lose any realistic chance of progressing to the next round should it fail to beat the Czechs on the road on Thursday.
However, it seems that coach Abuksis has already given up all hope of advancing, saying that he will rotate his lineup on Thursday to keep players fresh for the derby.
“This match is important, but the derby is even more important,” said Abuksis, whose team currently trails Premier League leader Maccabi by six points after losing its last two local matches.
“We would have rather had this time to prepare for the derby, but we have another match to come through and we will freshen up the team and rest players for Sunday.”
Ironi Kiryat Shmona finds itself in an identical situation to Hapoel in Group I, but at least the Israeli champion will be facing Sparta Prague at home on Thursday.
Nevertheless, like Abuksis, Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar does not believe his team has any real chance of qualifying for the knockout stages and is mainly hoping to use the Europa League as a platform to build confidence for the Premier League.
Kiryat Shmona broke a nine-match winless streak in all competitions with a 1-0 win against Hapoel Acre on Saturday and Bachar believes his team can avenge its 3-1 loss in Prague two weeks ago and claim its first-ever victory in the group stage on Thursday.
“Clearly the win over Acre gave us a lot of confidence,” Bachar said. “We are now hoping to gather momentum with another win.”