The draw for the first round of the UEFA Cup was made in Monaco on Friday, and Israel's two representatives in the competition - Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv - have both been handed tough, but not impossible, tasks.
Maccabi Tel Aviv appears to have an easier job than its city rival Hapoel. Maccabi has been drawn against Dinamo Zagreb, once a powerhouse of European soccer but now deep in financial crisis, with the first leg in Croatia on September 13, and the return in Tel Aviv 12 days later.
Dinamo Zagreb is currently second in the Croatian league, and is unbeaten in four games.
In the 10 seasons that the Croatian league has been in existence, Dinamo Zagreb has won six titles and has been runner-up on two occasions, in addition to five victories in the Croatian Cup. In 1998 and 1999, Zagreb qualified for the group stage of the Champions League, earning creditable victories over Ajax Amsterdam and Porto, but this season was eliminated in the qualifying round by AC Milan (0-3 in Croatia and 1-3 in Italy).
In the UEFA Cup, Dinamo has a much more illustrious history, having won the competition once (1966) and losing once in the final (1962).
Both of Tel Aviv's football teams progressed comfortably to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup. Hapoel Tel Aviv scored an easy 3-0 home win over Armenia's Ararat Yerevan on Thursday, while Maccabi added one more goal to already impressive 6-0 trouncing of Lithuanian outfit Zalgiris Vilnius in Lithuania.
Hapoel travels to Turkey
Hapoel will face Turkish side Gaziantepspor, a very stable team which ended last season third in the Turkish league between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.
Despite being drawn away from home for the first leg, Hapoel was forced to switch with its Turkish opponents, since both the Tel Aviv teams currently play their home games at Hapoel's Bloomfield Stadium. Gaziantepspor is a very strong team at its own ground, and often beats superior teams, thanks to the backing of its fanatical supporters.
The city of Gaziantep is located in southeast Turkey, close to the Syrian border and some 90 minutes flight from Istanbul. Gaziantepspor came close to earning a place in the Champions League last season, and only a 2-1 home defeat to Galatasaray - their only home loss of last season - prevented it from competing in the more prestigious competition.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now