Israeli Teams Prepare for Europe
Qualification for the Uefa Europa League and Champions League has already started and soon it will be the turn of Israeli sides to prove their mettle in the world’s toughest club competitions. Maccabi Haifa has had an uncertain off-season after losing Tomer Hemed and Lior Rafaelov to Mallorca and Club Brugge respectively. In its four friendly games in Austria the “Greens” only managed to win one of their games and and score three goals. Haifa has signed six new players this offseason so I’m sure the hope will be that they can gel with their new teammates before their clash with Bosnian side Borac Banja Luka in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. Haifa should beat the Bosnians but I would expect some nerves to be showing. Maccabi Tel-Aviv on the other hand have won all of their games; albeit against lesser opposition. The Yellows beat Otelul Galati, Almere City, Beerschot AC, and Borussia Monchengladbach U-23 in impressive fashion with an aggregate score of 13 to 1. Their Azeri opponent Khazar Lankaran should not be taken lightly, but Maccabi is good enough to advance. However they will be missing one of their better players after owner Mitch Goldhar anounced that their star attacking midfielder Maor Buzaglo is no longer in the team’s plans. Hapoel Tel-Aviv has also had its share of drama and loss of talent. Co-owners Eli Tabib and Moni Harel are in dispute over who owns the team with the case likely to be resolved in court. Meanwhile Hapoel lost most of its attack as well as their star keeper Vincent Enyeama. Hapoel have been busy trying to replace these players and their marquee signing of the summer has been striker Omer Damari. Hapoel has been seeded in the third qualifying round of the Europa league and doesn’t yet know their opponents. Bnei Yehuda is Israel’s fourth participant for Europe this season, and the club has managed to retain all of its players except for one from last season. Their opponents are Andorran club Sant Julia and shouldn’t be a problem for the club from Shchunat Hatikva. In my estimation its a definitely possiblity that every club except Bnei Yehuda should be able to advance to the group stages of their respective competition despite the attrition of losing many of their best players to bigger clubs in Europe.