Betar Jerusalem prepares to host St. Etienne

In final round of Europa League qualification, embattled Jerusalem soccer club hopes to give their season a huge boost.

Shai Landesman,

Betar Jerusalem
Betar Jerusalem
Flash 90

After a summer in which its name has mainly been attached to negative headlines concerning the arrest of dozens of its fans for weapons and drug dealing, and a highly publicized fight in court over its best players' desire to leave the club, Betar Jerusalem finds itself on the cusp of a very handsome accomplishment, advancing to the Europa League group stage.

However, the one obstacle standing between Betar and that accomplishment is a formidable one. It faces a two-leg tie against AS St. Etienne of France.

St. Etienne finished sixth in the French league last year, and has far more talent on its roster than Betar. The French club boasts a significant European pedigree, and some name recognition with Center-Back Florentin Pogba, brother of newly-crowned most expensive player in the world Paul Pogba (who recently completed a move from Juventus to Manchester United for 105 Million Euros).

Betar will be hoping to snatch a win at home in Teddy stadium tomorrow, utilizing the support of its home crowd. Attendance is expected to reach 25,000, a very large crowd by Betar terms, reflecting a high level of excitement surrounding the possibility of Europa League group stage action.

The play of Winger Omer Atzili will be key. Atzili is the player who is going through court arbitration to leave the team - this after he had a public feud with owner Eli Tabib last season - but is still in Jerusalem and is expected to start tomorrow.

Atzili had an excellent outing in the last game Betar played in Europe, the second leg of their tie against Latvian club FK Jelgava. Atzili had a goal and an assist as Betar won 3-0, and could have scored several more goals. If Atzili puts together a comparable performance and the crowd gets involved early, Betar might just be able to get a result that puts it in good position ahead of the return leg in France next week.

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