UEFA Cup: Hapoel TA looks to extend Cup run

Hapoel Tel Aviv is on the verge of returning to its glory days in Europe.

Hapoel TA 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hapoel TA 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv is on the verge of returning to its glory days in Europe. After returning from Paris with a dramatic win over Paris St. Germain, the reds host Czech side Mlada Boleslav in their final UEFA Cup group stage fixture at Bloomfield stadium tonight. Yitzhak Shum's team has done a good job in this season's UEFA Cup, winning four points from three tough games. The highlight of the campaign so far was the 4-2 away victory over PSG that pushed the team into second place in Group G. "The most important game of our season," Shai Abutbul told reporters ahead of the game. "We have to come focused and give it our best. I hope our fans will pack the stadium and will be a decisive factor in the game. We are definitely capable of qualifying." "We have been watching this team's video's all week," Baruch Dego said. "I don't want to think of failure, as a loss will cut our European season short and we'll be left only with the league. That's something we don't want to happen. We have to utilize our home advantage and overcome this challenge." Shum has yet to finalize his starting lineup, as two key players are injured and doubtful for the crucial game. Veteran midfielder Walid Badir and left back Yigal Antebi have not practiced with the team for the last few days; a decision on their status will only be made at game time. There has been growing unrest among the Tel Aviv faithful, who are also concerned with the status of Salim Toema. Recent reports have indicated that the club has received a 1 million euro bid from a European team for the influential playmaker . Mlada Boleslav is looking for all three points, but will have to manage without talented forward Labos Pecka. The team's leading goalscorer is injured and has not traveled with the team for the Hapoel game. The Czech team is guided by Dusan Uhrin Jr., the son of Dusan Uhrin Sr., who coached Maccabi Haifa in the 1998-99 season. Mlada is coming off an exceptionally successful domestic season, after finishing second in the Czech League and playing in the preliminary qualification round of this year's Champions League. "It's not my first time in Israel," Uhrin Jr. said. "I have been here before, when my dad coached Maccabi Haifa. I asked him about Hapoel Tel Aviv, but things have changed since then. We talked about Bloomfield stadium, which reminds us of the hostile stadium in Bucharest." "We are here to win. All my players know that a win is needed. We can make history with Mlada, but its going to be a tough game. Hapoel is a talented team, especially Salim Toema, who is their key player. We have done our homework and we know what needs to be done to win the game." Greek side Panathinaikos, which is currently leading Group G, takes on PSG in a tough away game. A victorious Tel Aviv can take first place tonight if "Pana" falls to the French giants.