Soccer: Benfica awaits Betar in CL qualifiers

UEFA Cup 2nd qualifying round: Hapoel TA to face Bosnian side NK Siroki Brijeg, Maccabi TA plays Turks Erciyesspor, Mac Netanya to face Portuguese club UD Lieria.

Betar Boateng 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Betar Boateng 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Betar Jerusalem will face Portuguese giant Benfica in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, should it get the better of FC Copenhagen on Tuesday night at Teddy Stadium. The Israeli champion, which suffered a 1-0 loss in the first leg of the second qualifying round against the Danes last week, will be itching to face Benfica and gain revenge for the 6-0 drubbing the seven-time finalist handed Betar in the second qualifying round of the Champions league in the 1998/99 season. Jerusalem should be relatively pleased with the draw, which was conducted on Friday in Nyon, Switzerland, considering that it could have been drawn against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Werder Bremen. "Benfica is a huge club, but when you consider what the other possibilities were, then you understand that this is a reasonable draw," Betar CEO Itzik Korenfein said on Friday. "I hope that this draw will still mean something for us after Tuesday." Benfica, which won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962, reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons ago and was knocked out of the competition in the group stage last season, finishing third in its group behind Manchester United and Celtic. The team, which finished third in its league last season, boasts a strong squad which includes Portuguese stars Nuno Gomes and Rui Costa, and new signing, 18-year-old American Freddy Adu. "We could have got a better draw, but we could have got a worse one as well," Betar coach Itzhak Schum said. "Benfica is obviously a good team, but we are concentrating on the match against Copenhagen and we will only address the Portuguese team after we advance." The first leg of the third qualifying round will be played on either August 14 or 15 in Portugal, with the return leg taking place two weeks later on August 28 or 29. Also on Friday, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Netanya were all drawn in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup. Israeli cup holder Hapoel will face Bosnian side NK Siroki Brijeg, Maccabi plays Turks Erciyesspor and Netanya comes up against Portuguese club UD Lieria. The first leg of the second qualifying round will be played on August 16, with the second leg taking place two weeks later. Siroki Brijeg is the current Bosnian cup holder and won the league title two season ago. Hapoel, which reached the round of 32 of the UEFA Cup last season, will be a massive favorite against the small Bosnian side. "I will learn as much as possible about the Bosnian team in the coming days, but regardless, Hapoel will do its best to advance to the next round," said Tel Aviv coach Gay Luzon, who will surely be pleased by the fact that his team plays the first leg away from home. Maccabi's Turkish opponent booked its place in Europe after losing 1-0 in the cup final to Besiktas. The team was relegated to the second division at the end of last season and shouldn't cause much trouble for Maccabi. "I don't know the team, but any side that reached the cup final must be a good team," Maccabi captain Avi Nimni said. "They are certainly better than the Andorran team we just played." The yellow-and-blue will host the Turks in the first leg at Bloomfield Stadium. Netanya, who unlike the Tel Avivian teams was not seeded in the draw, will make its UEFA Cup debut in Portugal. Lieria, which finished in seventh position in the Portuguese league last season, reached the first round of the UEFA Cup last year and will, at the very least, give Netanya a run for its money. Maccabi finished in second position last season. It can not play its home European matches in Netanya's dilapidated stadium and will host the return leg at Kiriyat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa. "I'm pleased with the fact that the first leg is out of the way," Netanya coach Reuven Atar said. "I will watch Lieria's matches from last season and will do my homework ahead of the tie."