UEFA Europa League: Hapoel on course for group stage

Tel Aviv in control; Bnei Yehuda up against it after 1-0 defeat to PSV last week.

hapoel tel aviv win 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
hapoel tel aviv win 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman is hoping his team can take a leaf out of Maccabi Haifa's book on Thursday when it faces FK Teplice in the second leg of the Europa League playoffs at Bloomfield Stadium. Just like Haifa in the Champions League playoffs, Hapoel enters its return leg after winning 2-1 on the road and is in a commanding position to advance to the competition's group stage. "Haifa progressed in style," said Gutman. "Maccabi set the pace of the match, which is what we need to do as well. It recorded an elegant and straight forward victory, just as we hope to do." A Gili Vermut goal four minutes into stoppage time gave Hapoel the victory in the Czech Republic and Gutman is confident his team can complete the job on Thursday and ensure itself at least six more lucrative matches in European competition. "Hapoel has a long European tradition and we are committed to it," Gutman said. "The first leg proved that Teplice is a very strong team and I have no illusions of the magnitude of the task we are facing." Teplice arrived in Israel without its coach, Jiri Plisek, who fell ill earlier this week. However, Gutman doesn't believe this will benefit his team in any way. "A team of this level knows what to do even when its coach is missing," he said. "They will be coming to attack and we need to be ready for that." Bnei Yehuda faces a far tougher challenge on Thursday when it visits PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Not only is the team from southern Tel Aviv playing a much better opponent, but it will also be entering the match in a very awkward position following its 1-0 loss at Bloomfield last week. Eindhoven wasn't so impressive in the first leg, but Bnei Yehuda was overwhelmed by the occasion and will now need to claim what seems to be an extremely unlikely win at the Phillips Stadium if its continental campaign is to extend beyond Thursday. "There is no doubt that PSV is better than us, especially when it is playing at home," Bnei Yehuda coach Guy Luzon said. "In its worst game at home so far this season Eindhoven scored three goals. This is a quality side, but you always have a chance and we will be doing our best in the hope that will prove to be enough. I always believe that in a single match anything is possible."