Soccer / Champions League qualifiers / Beitar to face Barcelona with a victory over Wisla
The draw held Friday in Switzerland for the Champions League third round qualifiers pits Beitar Jerusalem against Spanish dynasty F.C. Barcelona, should the Israeli champions advance past Wisla Krakow in Wednesday's contest in Poland.
Friday's draw also included teams competing in the UEFA Cup second-round qualifying matches, in which Israeli teams Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Netanya and Ironi Kiryat Shmona are competing.
Their competitors will be, respectively, Serbia's Vojvodina Novi Sad as well as Bulgarian sides Cherno More Varna and Litex Lovech.
On Friday morning, Beitar's players convened for a practice knowing that when it was over they would know who their opponent would be in the next Champions League preliminary match, barring a loss to Wisla. Beitar only needs a tie to advance after winning 2-1 in the first match on Wednesday.
"Well, almost all of the teams are strong, so it's better that we get Barcelona, just for the experience and so that all of Europe sees us," said one veteran player.
A discussion developed in the locker room, and the players soon concluded that such talk only made them complacent ahead of the crucial Wisla match.
Yesterday, Krakow's prospects suffered a blow as defender Arkadiusz Glowacki, hurt in the first match against Beitar, was put on the injured list for the next six weeks.
The 29-year-old, who also plays for Poland's national team, completed 90 minutes in the first match, but examinations after the game revealed that his leg injury needed surgery.
Later Friday, Barcelona officials contacted representatives of both Beitar and Wisla with a request to switch the hosting order for the prospective match-up.
Should the request be accepted, the first match - to be held August 12 or 13 - would be held at the pitch of Barca's opponent, and the second would be held at the Catalans' Camp Nou Stadium two weeks later.
Barcelona's director of football Txiki Begiristain explained that the decision was "due to professional reasons only."
He added that it is in the interest of the opposing team to play the second match at home "for economic reasons," implying that its fans would not come to see a second match if the first resulted in a Barcelona victory.
The Israeli clubs in UEFA Cup competition face significantly less prestigious adversaries.
Hapoel Tel Aviv will face Vojvodina Novi Sad, which finished third in the Serbian league, and whose most successful year in international competition was 1967, when it made the Champions League quarterfinals.
Maccabi Netanya's opponent, Cherno More Varna, finished fifth in the Bulgarian league, and has not won the national title since 1938.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona will meet Litex Lovech, the Bulgarian third-place finishers, who two years ago made it as far as the UEFA Cup round of 16.
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