Matthaus predicts 2-0 UEFA Cup win

Netanya coach ready for first European test; Hapoel TA, Kiryat Shmona also in action tonight.

lothar matthaus 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
lothar matthaus 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Lothar Matthaus faces his first true test as Maccabi Netanya coach on Thursday night when his side hosts Bulgarian side Cherno More in the UEFA Cup second and final qualifying round. The former World Cup winner took charge of the team last month after Maccabi's German-Jewish owner Daniel Jammer decided not to renew the contract of previous coach Reuven Atar, even though he led the club to its second consecutive second place league finish. While the Betar Jerusalem Champions League frenzy of recent weeks is but a memory, Israel is still left with three representatives battling to remain in the European stage. As well as Netanya, Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Ironi Kiryat Shmona will also play Thursday night in the first legs of their UEFA Cup tie. Kiryat Shmona and their newly appointed coach Michel Dayan will visit another Bulgarian team, Litex Lovech. And Hapoel Tel Aviv, which finished seventh in the league and qualified for the UFEA Cup after losing to Betar in the State Cup final in May, faces against what might turn out to be a difficult opponent, the Serbian club FK Vojvodina of Novi Sad. Matthaus continues to be the main focus of Maccabi Netanya, which held a press conference on Wednesday at Bloomfield Stadium, where the game will be played. He will know that the team needs to improve on Sunday's Toto Cup performance when it lost 2-1 to Bnei Yehuda. "The game lasts 90 minutes," stated Matthaus. "If we play the same as we played the first sixty minutes against Bnei Yehuda we will be fine," he said. "Football is a simple game," continued the coach. "Sometimes one team surprises the other and sometimes the other way around. I hope that if we stick to our system and stay focused we will be the one doing the surprising." Netanya goalkeeper and captain, Liran Shtrauber made a terrible mistake for the first goal against Bnei Yehuda, allowing the ball to roll under his feet. "I'm not at all worried about my errors on Sunday," claimed Strauber, who was also present at the press conference. "They were clearly not mistakes of ability or timing, these things just happen in football. As a team we feel good and prepared for the challenge tomorrow. I believe that the stadium will be filled to capacity, which will help us achieve a good score line and eventually progress to the next round." Despite everything said it seems as though Netanya could have prepared a little better for Thursday's game. "We have yet to learn about our opponents," stated the captain less than 24 hours before kickoff, "but today after practice we will do just that." "I think 2-0 would be a very good result," added Matthaus. "I think we have yet to play a game where we manage to keep our head in the right place for the whole 90 minutes. I hope the team understands the importance of full concentration in order we reach our current goal of progressing to the next round." Cherno More coach Nikola Spasov spoke with some awe about his opposition coach. "Of course we know very well who Netanya's coach is and obviously hold him in high respect. "But meanwhile we also know that he himself will not be playing, and while we will give Netanya the full respect they deserve, we will not play with fear, and much like every other game we have come to win."