Maccabi TA, Bnei Yehuda hope to advance

Israeli teams close to third qualifying round of Europa League.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda have mouthwatering ties to look forward to in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
However, they first must secure their progress from the second qualifying round on Thursday night after claiming favorable results in the first legs last week.
Maccabi visits FK Mogren in Montenegro, and despite only winning 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium, will be very confident of advancing past a very mediocre opponent and booking a meeting against Greek giant Olympiacos.
Even though Mogren barely broke out of its own half in the first leg, Tel Aviv coach Yossi Mizrahi remains wary of the Montenegrins.
“Our goal is to advance to the next stage and play well on a poor pitch and in difficult weather,” he said. “I have no doubt that the players will give their all to accomplish this goal. Our opponent will play completely differently to the way it did in the first leg and will have home-field advantage.
We will have to adapt to this style of game and find the way to beat them.”
Mizrahi is expected to start with the same 11 players he named in the first leg, meaning eight of the yellow-andblue’s 10 summer signings will get another opportunity to gel as a team.
Maccabi’s new back-four of Israeli internationals Avi Strul, Klemi Saban, Yoav Ziv and Brazilian Nivaldo will be in the lineup once more, with fellow new signings Bosnian Haris Medunjanin and Cameroonian Albert Baning to start in the midfield.
Strikers Roberto Colautti and Barak Itzhaki will teamup in attack yet again, with both still looking for their first goals as Tel Aviv players.
Bnei Yehuda’s route to the third qualifying round is likely to be tougher than Maccabi’s when it hosts Shamrock Rovers at Bloomfield in the second leg.
Dror Kashtan’s men scored a valuable away goal in Dublin last week, but the match ended in a 1-1 draw after they conceded in stoppage time and midfielder Omri Afek knows the team must be focused if it’s to book a meeting with Italian powerhouse Juventus.
“We are playing at home and have the advantage of an away goal, but that doesn’t guarantee us anything,” he said. “We must play well, especially better than we did in the first leg. I believe that with home-field advantage we should advance.
“We are not thinking of the next round yet. We are focusing on this game and if we progress we will have plenty of time to talk about Juventus.”
Maccabi Haifa, which will begin its continental campaign in the third qualifying round, will keep a close eye on Thursday’s match between Dinamo Minsk and JK Sillamae Kalev, with the Belarusians likely to be Haifa’s next opponent after winning the first leg 5-1.
On TV: FK Mogren vs Maccabi Tel Aviv (live at 6:30 p.m. on Sport5); Bnei Yehuda vs Shamrock Rovers (live at 8:30 p.m. on Sport1)