UEFA Europa League: High-flying Hap TA gets back to business

UEFA Europa League High

hapoel tel aviv train soccer 248  (photo credit: Hapoel Tel Aviv Web site)
hapoel tel aviv train soccer 248
(photo credit: Hapoel Tel Aviv Web site)
After winning three of its first four group matches, Hapoel Tel Aviv will be confident of finishing off the job and advancing to the Europa League's round of 32 on Wednesday night when its visits Celtic in Glasgow. A draw at Celtic Park will be enough for Hapoel to progress from Group C, and even a loss in Scotland might see it book a place in the next round on Wednesday night, as long as Rapid Vienna does not defeat Hamburg in Germany in the group's second match. "We began the campaign as an underdog, but now we need to prove we deserve to be top of the group," Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said. "We are not expecting any favors from Hamburg. We want to get the job done ourselves." Hapoel has been in outstanding form in the past month, winning seven straight matches in European and local play. Tel Aviv has won five consecutive Premier League matches by a combined goal difference of 15-2 and beat Rapid both home and away, 5-1 at Bloomfield Stadium and 3-0 in Vienna. After missing out on a place in the Champions League, failure to advance to the next round of the Europa League would be a huge embarrassment for Celtic. Celtic was in the Champions League the past three seasons but needs to beat Hapoel to have any chance of making it through to the next stage. Celtic has yet to win any of its four Europa League matches this season, a record so bad it could be eliminated even if it does win. A draw for Hamburg against Rapid Vienna would send the German side through to the next round alongside Hapoel. "It's going to be tough for us to get through now because you never want to be in a position where other teams need to do you a favor, but that's the way it is," Celtic forward Aiden McGeady said. "Hamburg has to lose its final two games and we have to win, but that's the position we've put ourselves in and we have to take responsibility." Celtic leads the Scottish Premier League but has been relatively inconsistent this season following Tony Mowbray's arrival to replace Gordon Strachan as manager. Celtic has lost two and drawn three of its 13 league matches and picked up just one point from two home games in the Europa League. The club has also had to deal with the Scottish Trades Union Congress' call for fans to wave Palestinian flags during the match in solidarity with suffering Palestinians. "Celtic Football Club believes in football as a powerful medium for social integration," a club statement read. "Celtic has always been a club for all people, regardless of gender, age, religion, race, politics or ability. We therefore believe Celtic Park is no place for a political demonstration." Also Wednesday, Ajax and Anderlecht can both advance before the co-leaders meet in their final Group A match on December 17. Ajax will be without winger Dennis Rommedahl and midfielder Siem de Jong because of injury for its trip to Timisoara, with Anderlecht hosting Dinamo Zagreb. Benfica and Fenerbahce also seek to secure a place in the next round on Wednesday. The Turkish side meets Dutch league leader FC Twente, with Benfica playing BATE Borisov in Belarus. Roma needs to beat FC Basel to be sure of needing only a point from its last match to guarantee progress. Victory on Thursday would put Roma through with a game to spare if Fulham loses to last-place CSKA Sofia in the other Group E match. A win for the English club would keep the pressure on the Italians. AP contributed to this report