Maccabi Haifa will be keeping a close eye on its possible opponents for the second qualifying round of the Champions League tonight, when Portadown FC of Northern Ireland hosts FC Belshina Bodruisk of Belarus for the first round.
Haifa's assistant coach Marco Balbul will watch the tie and report back to coach Yitzhak Shum and the players who are now at a training camp in Germany. The return leg between the two teams is on July 24 in Belarus. Haifa will play the winners on July 31 and August 7. The first leg, which is supposed to be a home tie, will probably not take place in Israel and Nicosia's GSP stadium has again been named as the probable venue for the match, since UEFA considers Israel to be too dangerous to host international matches.
There are nine other first-round fixtures in the Champions League today: Tampere United FC (Finland) v. FC Pyunik (Armenia), FC Skonto (Latvia) v. Barry Town AFC (Wales), F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) v. FK Vardar (Macedonia), FBK Kaunas (Lithuania) v. KS Dinamo Tirana (Albania), FC Flora (Estonia) v. Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus), FK Zeljeznicar (Bosnia) v. IA Akranes (Iceland), Hibernians FC (Malta) v. Shelbourne FC (Ireland), FC Torpedo Kutaisi (Georgia) v. B36 Torshavn (Faroe Islands), FC Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova) v. FC Zhenis Astana (Kazakhstan).
Zhenis, the Kazakhstani club, will be representing its country officially for the first time ever in the European ring. Kazakhstan recently became the newest member of UEFA and is the most eastern member of the European soccer's governing body.
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