Soccer / Champions League / Bayern Coach: Absence of Star Won't Slow Us Down

Injured star Miroslav Klose will not play for Bayern Munich in its Champions League match at Haifa tomorrow, but the team's coach says he is hardly worried. "Miroslav Klose's absence won't hurt us," said head coach Louis van Gaal. "We have enough talented attacking players."

Klose will remain in Germany for sports rehab to regain his fitness.

Meanwhile, van Gaal's relationship with his French midfielder Franck Ribery seemed to be warming up as Ribery celebrated scoring a goal Saturday by running up to his coach. "I have a contract through 2011, but it's good for me here," said Ribery, who was believed to be headed to Real Madrid this summer. He said he hoped he would finally get the chance to start at the game in Haifa, adding he felt fit.

Maccabi Haifa's coach has developed a new strategy in recent days ahead of the Tuesday Champions League match: play soccer and enjoy the experience.

Team officials say coach Elisha Levy is trying to avoid having his players feel excessive pressure, so that they will show up loose and without any expectations. "Everyone here is in a kind of dream," said a senior official. "We have nothing to lose, only to gain. There's no pressure on the team at all." The team's stated goal is to give the fans a good time regardless of the final score, adding that any point Haifa gets in the league will be a bonus for everyone.

Levy's main concern, they say, is defense, and yesterday he stressed in practice the need to "pick up the defensive game and not to play in shock." Levy told his players before practice: "In these kinds of matches, there's no need to talk with you about motivation or the need for maximum focus. It's important you go out and play soccer the way you know how."

Gustavo Boccoli is expected to start alongside Biram Kiyal in the center, with Eyal Golasa opening on attack next to Yaniv Katan and Vladimir Dvalishvili. Shlomi Arbeitman, who has played well as of late, will likely come in as a substitute.

Serb shows muster in Hapoel Tel Aviv win

In Premier League play yesterday, Hapoel Tel Aviv's newest acquisition quickly showed his value ahead of the club's Europa League match against Celtic, as the Reds disposed of Hapoel Be'er Sheva 3-1. Serbian midfielder Nemanja Vucicevic played only 57 minutes in his debut with Hapoel Tel Aviv, but he was involved in every attack by the team, and took over when Itay Shechter and Samuel Yeboah were mentally absent.

Lior Asulin put Be'er Sheva up 1-0 in the 16th minute, after Tel Aviv's defense did a poor job of clearing the ball from the penalty area, but Vucicevic soon stepped in. He equalized in the 18th minute, after taking a pass from Dedi Ben Dayan and delivering the ball straight into the net.

Tel Aviv was clearly the better side, but after opening the season with two straight draws, the team knew its fans wanted a win before Thursday's meeting with Celtic. Be'er Sheva didn't want to disappoint the home crowd, but after dominating the early minutes, it was clear the team could not figure out what kind of game it wanted to play. David Revivo looked all night for Asulin, who after his first goal could not get past Douglas da Silva or Walid Badir. On defense, Evyatar Iluz and Shimon Harush were two big holes.

Just a minute after entering, Tel Aviv's Michael Zandberg scored the team's second goal in the 58th minute. Be'er Sheva desperately tried to equalize, only to have Avihai Yadin finish off the scoring for Tel Aviv in the 90th minute.

Zandberg injured himself a few minutes after his goal, and was taken for an MRI with a suspected tear in his knee muscle after the game.