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Sturm Graz striker Mario Hass is out of the team's clash with Maccabi Haifa in the return leg of the third qualifying round Champion's League match next Wednesday.

Hass suffered a knee injury in the 53rd minute of yesterday's 0-2 home loss to Austria Vienna. The club's doctor believes Hass could be out for between six to eight months.

Local sports reporters yesterday said that on the kind of showing Sturm Graz has been putting on recently, it has no chance of overcoming the two goal deficit against Maccabi from the first leg of the tie, and for that matter of competing with Austria Vienna for the Austrian league title.

However, yesterday's loss did not deter Sturm Graz president Hans Karting from declaring in a television interview that he is absolutely convinced Graz will make into the group stage of the Champion's League at Haifa's expense.

The new manager of the Austrian national team, Hans Krankl, also said yesterday he believes in Sturm Graz's chances of beating Haifa, despite its uncomfortable position from the first leg.

Sports commentators in Austria believe yesterday's loss and failure to make it into the money-spinning group stage of the Champion's League could spell the way out for Sturm Graz's manager Ivica Osim. Failure to advance to the group stage will cost the club 8 million euro.