Israeli soccer teams are once again in European qualification action as Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beer Sheva will all look to put themselves in position to move into the playoff rounds of their respective continental competitions.
Maccabi Haifa who are fresh off of a UEFA Champions League second round qualifying win over Greek powerhouse Olympiacos will welcome Apollon Limassol for the first leg of third round qualifying action as the Cypriot champions will be playing their first official match of the 2022/23 season. Limassol’s German head coach Alexander Zorniger has been in charge of Red Bull Leipzig, Stuttgart and Brondby before taking over behind the bench of the island nation’s title holder at the beginning of last season.
One familiar player for Limassol will be Ido Shachar who is on loan from Maccabi Tel Aviv as the club looks to play in the group stages of a European competition for the first time since the 2018/19 campaign when they featured in the Europa League.
The Greens and their manager Barak Bachar will look to move into the playoff round where they would face the winner of the Red Star Belgrade vs Pyunik match and should they falter in the two legged tie they will begin their European season in the Conference League group stages. However, Haifa looks to be favored in this matchup and coming off of a dominating victory over Olympiacos their supporters will fill the Tsirio Stadium for the second leg next week.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will welcome ARIS Thessaloniki from Greece for the first leg of the third round of Conference League qualifying as the yellow-and-blue fans are expected to pack into the 30,000 seat Bloomfield Stadium to cheer on their club. Vladen Ivic’s side may have Israeli superstar Eran Zahavi included in the squad for the first time since returning from abroad after the strike scored in a friendly over the weekend. Should Maccabi get by ARIS they will face Nice in the playoff round of the competition.
Former Argentinian keeper Germán Burgos mans the sidelines for the Greek outfit after having joined the club this past February after a short run at Newell’s Old Boys.
Last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv advanced to the third round after playing Zira to a 1-1 draw as the yellow-and-blue eased won the two gamed by a score of 3-0 aggregate over the Azerbaijan squad.
“I wanted to see a different type of game as we wanted to play,” Ivic said. “I believe that we didn’t play well enough and we have to keep working in order to improve. I will analyze the game with the players and they just weren’t here. It looks like we didn’t prepare well enough for this match. We won the first game because we are serious and accrued quick early goals. We still have much to do in order to improve.”
Nir Bitton, who made his Maccabi Tel Aviv debut, reflected on his return to Israel, “It’s great to be back playing in Israel and I worked hard during the break to get to this point. I came to a big club that believes in me and I am here to give back everything that I have. The club knew that I had wanted to remain abroad but I am also a person that likes certainty in life and they showed me how much they really wanted me.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva will head to Switzerland where they will take on a familiar foe Lugano in the third round of Conference League qualifying after having disposed of Dinamo Minsk. Elyaniv Barda’s team played in the same Europa League group in the 2017/18 campaign but this time around, former Swiss right back Mattia Croci-Torti is their head coach after having joined the club last season. If the southern reds make it past Lugano they will play the winner of the Zorya vs Craiova tie.
Last week, Hapoel Beer Sheva defeated Dinamo Minsk 1-0 (3-1 on aggregate) as Rotem Hatuel scored the only goal of the match to send the southern reds into the third round of Conference League qualifying.
“We had a lot to lose in this game after having won last game unconvincingly,” Coach Elyaniv Barda said. “To play in an empty stadium is very hard to bring energy but we played well and we can take that from this game. We made it through this game and we have plenty to improve.”
Also, Maccabi Netanya were knocked out of Europe after falling to Istanbul Baksaksehir 1-0 (1-2 on aggregate) as Youssouf Ndayishimiye headed home the lone goal of the match in the 9th minute of play. The defeat at the Netanya Stadium in the second leg of the second round of Conference League qualifying eliminated Benny Lam’s squad from continental action.
“All in all, I am proud of my players and supporters,” Lam began following the game. “We are a big club and a good team and we almost scored in the 95th minute. We proved that we were no less of a team but we played against a very tough side. We want to get back to Europe next season.”
In Toto Cup action, Hapoel Tel Aviv took out Hapoel Jerusalem 3-1 on goals by Hisham Layous, Shlomi Azulay and Omer Senior while Itay Zaza responded for the Reds, Bnei Sakhnin slipped by Hapoel Haifa 2-0 on strikes by Hassan Hilo and Guy Melamed and Klemen Šturm scored the lone goal in Hapoel Hadera’s 1-0 win over Kiryat Shemona.