Israeli teams prepare for crucial European clashes

Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv aim to advance to Europa League group stages as they both play their last qualification game tonight.

Shai Landesman ,

Betar Jerusalem.
Betar Jerusalem.
Photo: Team Facebook page/Moshe Ashkenazi

After Hapoel Be'er Sheva's defeat in the last round of Champions League qualification on Tuesday, two other Israeli teams will look to succeed in their bid for European soccer in two games tonight (Thursday).

Be'er Sheva, for its part, has earned itself a spot in the group stage of the Europa League, the second tier competition which still holds its own fair share of prestige and quality.

Spanish club Sevilla has won the Europa League for three years running.

Betar vs. St. Etienne (21:45)

Betar Jerusalem has the more difficult task in its bid to join Be'er Sheva in the group stage of the competition, as it carries a 2-1 deficit against French team St. Etienne from last week's loss in Teddy stadium in Jerusalem.

The yellow and black from Jerusalem face a tough match in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, in which it must win against a better opponent in order to have any chance of advancing.

Moreover, a 1-0 win will not be enough. Although such a result would level the aggregate score of the two games at 2-2, St. Etienne would then have more away goals than Betar, having scored 2 in Jerusalem last week.

Betar must therefore win by two goals win outright, or 2-1, in which case the tie would go to extra time and potential penalties. A one-goal win by a score higher than 2-1 (3-2, 4-3, etc.) would also see Betar advance due to a higher number of away goals.

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Hajduk Split (21:30)

Tel Aviv, meanwhile, are in Croatia to try to finish the job against Hajduk Split. Last week's 2-1 win in Maccabi's temporary home in Netanya has the yellow and blue feeling rather confident of coming out victorious, but the situation is still somewhat tricky.

Any win or draw will see Tel Aviv go through. However, a 1-0 win by Split - a common result for a team playing at home - would give Hajduk the ticket to the group stage due to the away goals rule.

Maccabi will be reasonably confident of getting the job done, as they played better than their Croat counterparts in the first game, and really should have won more easily. A similar display tonight should be enough to see them through.

If both Betar and Maccabi win, Israel will have three representatives in the Europa League group stage, guaranteeing a high volume of European soccer deep into the season.