UEFA Cup: Spurs pose dangerous distraction to Luzon

Match against Tottenham comes when TA is rock-bottom of the Premier League standings and is still winless eight matches into its campaign.

hapoel tel aviv 224.88 (photo credit: )
hapoel tel aviv 224.88
(photo credit: )
Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Guy Luzon wouldn't admit it on Wednesday, but his team's match against Tottenham in the UEFA Cup group stage on Thursday evening has come at the worst possible time. Tel Aviv is rock-bottom of the Premier League standings and is still winless eight matches into its campaign. The side faces arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday night in a match that will likely see Luzon lose his employment should his team fail to claim its first win of the season. Luzon will, however, have to put all his local troubles aside on Thursday as Hapoel's European campaign will be all but over if the team loses at Bloomfield Stadium. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Anderlecht in its first group match means Tel Aviv will face an uphill battle to qualify for the round of 32 should it fail to claim at least one point against Tottenham. "This match is a massive challenge for us," Luzon said on Wednesday. "We can't treat Tottenham as some kind of negative distraction because facing such a club is a dream for any team. "We will have to be smart with the team we play as we've got a very important match on Sunday. A good performance on Thursday can also give us more confidence for our league play. We will obviously have to rotate the lineup slightly ahead of Sunday, but we will play our strongest team." Thursday's match will see new Tottenham manager Juande Ramos return to what must be one of his favorite competitions. The Spaniard claimed the last two installments of the UEFA Cup with Sevilla, but could face an early exit from the competition if his team fails to record a win at Bloomfield. "I gained a lot of experience at Sevilla from the big games. I have also learned to fight for the titles. One of my best memories is playing six finals and winning five of them. Those type of things greatly help a coach," Ramos said. "We have to save this season. For next season we will be able to make more modifications and without pressure. "Tottenham is a big club. On one side, the history of the club is enormous. But on the other is the reality of the results. They haven't won anything in a long time. I compare them to Atletico Madrid in Spain. They have a tremendous prestige but show difficulties to compete." Ramos replaced Martin Jol after the team's 2-1 loss to Spanish side Getafe in the UEFA Cup two weeks ago. Spurs could only manage a 1-1 draw against Middlesborough in Ramos' first league match in charge on Saturday and is fourth from bottom in the Premier League with eight points from 12 matches. Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson has faced Hapoel in the past. He stood in goal for Leeds United in the team's 5-1 second round UEFA Cup win in the 2002-03 season. "We won 5-1 on aggregate, but Hapoel Tel Aviv was a decent team, hard-working and it was a tough game for us," Robinson told Tottenham's official Web site. "They are struggling at the wrong end of the table and I don't think they've won a game this season, but it will be tough out there. "They love their football out there, they are passionate and they also love [English] Premier League football, so they'll know all about us," he continued. "I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere and hopefully we'll get a win. We've got off to a poor start in the group and need to put it right. We have the games to do it and if we win them, we'll go through to the next stage." Hapoel midfielder Baruch Dego, who has struggled with injury in recent weeks, feels his team should be relaxed ahead of Thursday's match. "You must enjoy these types of games. No player would miss this match and we will do all we can to win. A victory will raise our confidence ahead of Sunday's game and we will try to put on a good show and record a good result for our fans," he said.