Soccer / Europa League Mac. Haifa Foe Has Back to the Wall

TA teams face group leaders.

Steaua Bucharest visits Maccabi Haifa tomorrow in Europa League Group J action in less than ideal circumstances. Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Group C leader PSV Eindhoven, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Group E leader Stoke City in the other two matches involving Israeli teams.

Joining a list of nine injured Bucharest players is Argentine midfielder Pablo Brandan, who is suspended. The midfield is already suffering from the absence of Cristian Tanase, a member of the Romanian national team. The defense will have to get by without George Galamaz.

Coach Ilie Stan also has to think about Sunday's derby against local league leader Rapid Bucharest, which Steaua trails by 10 points. However, a loss at Haifa for the third-place Romanians would effectively end their European campaign.

"In another situation a draw in Haifa would have been good for us, but after drawing in Larnaca, we have to come out with a win," Stan said just before departing for Israel.

The other European club playing in Israel tomorrow, PSV Eindhoven, arrived yesterday in unfamiliar territory. "I don't know Hapoel [Tel Aviv] well, but Israeli soccer has made a lot of progress," said Eindhoven coach Fred Rutten. "I saw Maccabi Haifa, and we won't have an easy game." Leading the group with six points in two games, Rutten brought along four young players who've never played in the Europa League, indicating his confidence in his team to take care of business.

PSV forward Ola Toivonen said the team has not scored enough and may need to take more shots from distance. "Maybe we'll try it against Hapoel Tel Aviv," he added.

Hapoel's crosstown rival, Maccabi Tel Aviv, has an equally different challenge at Stoke City, which beat Besiktas last time out.