PARMA, Italy - Hapoel Tel Aviv faces Italian side Parma tonight, in the second leg of its fourth round UEFA Cup clash. The game, which kicks off at 7:15 P.M., will be broadcast on Channel 10 and Sports 5+.
With both sides failing to score in the first leg at Bloomfield a week ago, Hapoel needs either a win or a scoring draw to progress to the last eight for the first time in its history. For Parma to avoid extra time, and the dreaded penalty shoot-out, only a win will do.
Hapoel's Hungarian midfielder, Gabor Halmai, summed up the mood in the team's camp, declaring that the players still wanted more.
"Six wins and three draws... We're still hungry," he said after Hapoel's morning training session yesterday.
Baptism of fire
Hapoel's goalkeeper for tonight's game will be Nir Rahamin, who is standing in for the suspended Shavit Elimelech.
Rahamin, 22, has a total of eight minutes of European experience to his credit. He replaced Elimelech toward the end of the first round match against Gaziantepspor in Turkey. Considered one of the rising stars of Israel soccer, Rahamin is the product of Hapoel's youth structure.
Hapoel will also have to do without the services of influential defender Assi Domb. Like Elimelech, Domb received his third yellow card of the tournament in the first leg, and will play no part in tonight's drama.
Trouble at home for Parma
Tel Aviv can draw some measure of optimism from Parma's relatively poor home record in this year's UEFA Cup.
A 1-0 scoreline over HJK Helsinki in the first round is Parma's only home win in the competition so far, having drawn 0-0 with Utrecht and 1-1 with Brondby in the next two rounds.
Parma will start tonight's game with a line-up very similar to that which opened at Bloomfield a week ago. Parma coach Pietro Carmignani has decided not to risk playing team captain Fabio Cannavaro, who does not even get a place on the substitute's bench. The Italian side also has three players sidelined due to injury: Luigi Sartor, Matias Almeyda and Matteo Ferrari.
Carmignani has made just three changes to the side that started the game against Hapoel last week, with Nestor Sensini and Junior relegated to the bench, and Sartor, of course, injured. In place of these three, Carmignani has called in Alain Boghossian, Sabri Lamouchi and Turkish striker Hakan Sukur.
Carmignani indicated yesterday that he would stick to his prefered system, playing with three defenders, five in the midfield and two - Sukur and Bonazzoli - in attack.
At yesterday's press briefing, Carmignani promised that Parma would be treating tonight's game very seriously.
"We have never taken Hapoel for granted," he said. "How can you take a team like Hapoel, which has one of the best counter-attacking games in Europe, for granted? I decided that [Marco] Di Vaio needs a rest, but he could certainly be part of the game in the later stages."
One problem that Parma will face in tonight's game is that despite being the home team, the Italians may well be in a minority. Club officials say that they are not expecting more than 6,000 fans to turn up to the Ennio Tardini stadium tonight, with at least half this number expected to make the trip over from Israel.
Club sources also revelaed that the security arrangements for tonight's game are to include the deployment of no fewer than 1,000 police officers and security guards - four times the number usually employed for league matches.
"I appreciate the Hapoel fans very much," said Carmignani yesterday. "But I don't think they will have any influence on the outcome of the game. Last week we played in front of 20,000 fans and we came away with a good result. The Hapoel fans are excellent - they support their teams enthusiastically, without insulting the opponent."
Asked whether he thought the game could be decided by a penalty shoot-out, Carmignani said, "I hope not. I hope we win before that becomes necessary."
Parma's technical director, Arigo Sacchi, said that tonight's game should be seen as a respite considering the troubles in Israel.
"Before the first leg, there was some confusion about our willingness to play, but we have great pleasure in playing this match," said the former Italy, Milan and Atletico Madrid coach.
"It gives us great pleasure to play this game because it is important to help these fans, these people to escape, even if just for a few hours, from the difficult situation they have to live with," he said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now