Soccer / Europa League

Road-warrior Israeli Teams Eye Wins at Home

While Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa are favorites, Hapoel 
Ramat Gan will have to surprise
 Portugal’s Estoril once again

Three Israeli teams are hoping to build on a successful away leg of the Europa League qualifiers and finish the job Thursday night at home. Hapoel Tel Aviv will host Romania’s Pandurii after the teams’ 1-1 draw last week.

Coach Ran Ben Shimon has yet to decide if Gil Vermouth, who is returning from injury, will start. "When Gili is healthy he’s an obvious starter,” Ben Shimon said. “But he has only just returned
to training. The moment I decide, he'll be the first to know. His physical fitness is fine, but we still don't know if he can play for 90 minutes."

Maccabi Haifa will host Latvia’s Ventspils after a disappointing 0-0 draw last week. "We'll try to be dominant and aggressive, but also careful,” coach Arik Benado told a press conference yesterday. “We were unlucky not to score last week; I think we'll do a better job at home."

While Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa are considered clear-cut favorites, Hapoel Ramat Gan surprised everyone last week with a 0-0 draw in Portugal against Estoril.

The winners of tonight's games will join Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Europa League playoff draw tomorrow. Maccabi Tel Aviv crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Nir Keidar