Preview – Riga looks to surprise Maccabi Tel Aviv in Champions League action

Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Riga FC in Champions League First Round Qualifying action in a single elimination match up on Wednesday night at Bloomfield Stadium. Should the yellow-and-blue advance past Riga they will go on to play away the winner of the Flora from Estonia and Suduva from Lithuania first round contest.

Head Coach Giorgos Donis will be on the bench for his first official game with Maccabi Tel Aviv and will have plenty of weapons at his disposal including Eyal Golasa who just re-signed with the club. Donis will also have a fully rested captain Sheran Yeini and left back Enric Saborit in his lineup along with last season’s league most valuable player Dan Glazer. Daniel Tenenbaum will be in goal while Avi Rikan, Tel Ben Chaim and Nick Blackman will all be available on the attack in the winner take all clash.

After having not played in the group stages of the Europa League since the 2017/18 season and the Champions League two years prior, Maccabi will look to get back into continental competition this season and make their mark in Europe.

To find out what Maccabi and their brand new Greek bench boss Giorgos Donis will be facing The Jerusalem Post spoke to Edmunds Novickis from Sportacentrs to find out what the yellow-and-blue can expect from their Latvian foe.

Riga FC was founded in 2014 and had already made a huge impact on the local soccer scene with league championships and 2018 and 2019 while also winning their State Cup in 2018. In addition, the club advanced all the way to the playoff round of Europa League qualifying last season where they fell to European giants Copenhagen.

As for what style Riga will play, they will most probably look to counter attack explained Novickis, “Riga will wait and play deep as Maccabi is the bigger club and favorites in this matchup.”

“The club has a good goalkeeper in Robert Ozols who can save penalties and they have quality central defenders. Almost all of the foreign players are attackers with Brazilian playmaker Felipe Brisola as the anchor as he has been excellent over the last 2 years when he’s been healthy.”

The club has a new head coach Oleg Kononov who arrived in February and had been at the helm of Spartak Moscow prior to joining the Latvian squad, but as Novickis says that won’t affect their solid results to date, “Mihails Koņevs who was head coach last year stayed on with the staff so the same work has continued within the club and it has produced good results.”

While Maccabi hasn’t played in Europe for a number of seasons, Riga will want to do the same and punch their ticket to the group stages for the first time in their history, “Last year Riga was very close to the group stages so they smelled the taste of a big achievement and want to try again. Ambitions have grown and before the season the club clearly said they want to advance to the group stages this year. But the draw has been tough and the journalists in Latvia think that the chance is more likely to come in the Europa League and not in Champions League.”

While Riga has kept mum on their upcoming tie at Maccabi they know that it’s a huge challenge that is in front of them, “The clash with Macabi and playing in Europe is a big priority as they won the Latvian championship fairly easy. Of course, everyone in Riga and in the Latvian football society understands how big a club is Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

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