Hapoel Tel Aviv's players will take a 3-1 lead into tonight's second leg of its Europa League third-round qualifying tie with FC Goteborg of Sweden, knowing they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Meanwhile, Bnei Yehuda will take a slender 1-0 lead to Portugal for its return leg against Pacos Ferreira.
"We had a good result in Sweden, but must not let our guard down," warned Hapoel coach Eli Guttman during a press conference yesterday. "We carried out the first part of the mission, and now it's time to finish it. We must not let the opposition bring us to a position where we're chasing a result. This club has a European tradition that we want to continue."
Guttman repeatedly avoided answering questions about Itay Shechter and Douglas Da Silva, who were detained by Swedish police following the first leg on suspicion of raping a local woman, who it has since emerged is known to be a prostitute. "As far as I'm concerned, the affair is behind us," is all he said.
The post-match affair overshadowed the team's achievement, and Guttman's charges may have been distracted from the task at hand. However Guttman says he is "99 percent certain" what his opening lineup will be, and is expected to reinstate Shechter - who came on a substitute in last week's game - to his opening lineup.
"We are aware of the importance of this game and will do all in our power to pass this hurdle and reach the playoff stage," said Bnei Yehuda coach Guy Luzon after yesterday's practice session.
The Bnei Yehuda players toured the picturesque city of Braga yesterday, and report a relaxed atmosphere in the squad, despite competition for places in the opening lineup.
Their rivals are fresh from a 1-0 victory over Spain's Celta Vigo in a warmup game, and see this match as crucial if the small club is to break into the big time in Europe. "To be honest, the result in Israel was a little surprising and we find ourselves in an uncomfortable position - but at least we're at home," coach Paolo Sergio told Israeli journalists yesterday. "We should remember that Bnei Yehuda is unbeaten in Europe this year, and hasn't let in a goal, so we'll have to be extremely determined and accurate if we're to reach the next stage."
Maccabi Netanya will enter the mouth of the volcano in Istanbul tonight, when they meet Turkish champion Galatasaray at the Ali Sami Yen stadium in front of an expected 25,000 fans. Galatasaray strolled past Netanya in last week's first leg, winning 4-1 at Bloomfield stadium, and the best the Israeli team can hope for is to avoid embarrassment. Netanya coach Nati Azariah is apparently under no illusions. "We saw the difference in the teams' levels last week," he told Turkish journalists. "It's a good training game and preparation for the Israeli league for us."
Galatasaray coach Frank Rijkaard is expected to field an attacking lineup, and the former Barcelona coach will want to use as many of his squad players as possible as they battle for regular spots on the team.
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