90-degree days are the new normal and that’s not so awesome.
That might be hot, but next week Olympiacos will travel to the furnace that is the Negev in mid-summer to try to grab a victory over Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Champions League qualifying. Good luck with that. Not really.
Stalemate In Piraeus
Hapoel Be’er Sheva eked out a 3:2 aggregate win over Sheriff Tiraspol to advance out of the second round of Champions League qualifying, but drew a tough opponent in Greek side Olympiacos in the third round. The reigning Greek champions are no strangers to Champions League play, making the group stages in seven of the past nine years.
Last night at the Karaiskakis Stadium they hosted the Champions League newbies in the first leg of their fixture, and the Israeli champions were equal to the task, holding Olympiacos to a goalless draw. The home fans in Piraeus apparently jeered their team off the field at the end of both halves, not impressed with their performance in a game that they were fully expected to win. The two teams meet next on August 3 in Be’er Sheva, and the winner will advance to the final playoff round seeking qualification for the group stages of the prestigious competition.
A Farewell to Glasgow
Celtic FC almost went down in the second round of Champions League qualifying to the mighty Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar, but righted the ship and earned a 3:0 win at Celtic Park to earn a third-round fixture against FC Astana from Kazakhstan. The Bhoys fell behind 1:0 in the 19th minute yesterday in Astana, but equalized in the 78th minute to grab an away goal and improve the odds of their advancement heading into the return leg next week in Glasgow.
Things don’t look too good for Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton, though, who apparently has not impressed new Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers (formerly of Liverpool and Swansea City). Rumors are circulating about his potential departure this summer, perhaps to Espanyol of La Liga on a 6 million pound transfer.
A Hemed Homecoming?
After a torrid 2015-16 campaign with Brighton and Hove Albion that saw him net a team-high 17 goals and help lead the Seagulls to the Championship playoffs, rumors of Tomer Hemed returning to Israel, and Maccabi Haifa, persist. Maccabi, on the heels of yet another disappointing season, a stunning loss in Europa League qualification last week to Nomme Kalju of Estonia, and the sudden departure of coach Roni Levy following the defeat, is a team in dire straits. With the Ligat Ha’al season only a few weeks away, Maccabi desperately needs to bring some optimism and excitement back to the Sammy Ofer, and Hemed might be just what they need. 5 million pounds should do the trick.
In other European news, Beitar Jerusalem plays Jelgava tonight in Latvia, and Maccabi Tel Aviv takes on Pandurii this evening in Romania, in the first legs of third round Europa League qualifying. Both Israeli teams will host the return legs on August 4 and are favorites to advance to the final playoff round on August 18/25.