Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Itzhak Shum will take on his former team Panathinaikos Athens after yesterday's UEFA Cup group stage draw in Nyon Switzerland. Hapoel plays in Group G and will also face Paris St. Germain, Rapid Bucharest and Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa was drawn into Group A along with Auxerre, Partizan Belgrade, Livorno and Glasgow Rangers, which hosts this season's final.
The opening matches are scheduled for October 19. Hapoel was to have hosted PSG in the first round, however, as Haifa will host Auxerre on the same date, Tel Aviv will play at Panathinaikos in the first round and will play PSG in Paris in the third round as UEFA rules state that two teams can not host on the same day in the same city. Haifa is playing its match in Tel Aviv because of a UEFA security ruling that allows Israeli teams to host international matches only in the Tel Aviv area.
Hapoel will now host Rapid Bucharest in the second round and Mlada Boleslav in the fourth. The switch of match locations will cost Hapoel an estimated 235,000 euros in losts revenues from broadcast rights. "If we had hosted PSG we would have received 250,000 euros from UEFA, but against Rapid we will receive only 15,000," said Hapoel chairman Moni Harel.
Harel was, however, optimistic that with three teams advancing from each group and Hapoel hosting the weaker teams in the group at home, the club had a good chance of making the next stage. "We can advance and I believe we will," Harel said.
Hapoel coach Itzhak Shum, who will return to Athens to face Panathinaikos, the team he led to the Greek league and cup double three years ago, said the match would be of particular significance for him.
"The match against Pana means a lot to me, but it is not a grudge match," said Shum who was fired early into the following season after a dispute with the club's technical director. "It is a tough group with excellent teams, but we will try and win every match."
Maccabi Haifa coach Roni Levy said his team had been handed a tough draw. "It's a very difficult draw, but in these competitions there are no easy draws. We expected to be up against top teams and we will start to study our opposition immediately. We will prepare ourselves as best so that we can succeed in advancing to the next stage."
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