It’s on.

Meaningless/meaningful preseason cup games broke out across the football world this week and you know what that means – league play is about to begin. It’s like Chanukah in August for fans of the beautiful game and we are about to light the first candle as the EPL kicks off on Friday with Arsenal/Leicester and continues on Saturday with Liverpool/Watford and Brighton/Man City.

For those of you waiting for La Liga and the Bundesliga, hang in there… those leagues get going the weekend of the 19th.

But first…

Second time’s the charmhbs

After last year’s spirited defeat against Celtic, Hapoel Be’er Sheva has reached the final playoff for Champions League group play for the second straight August, drawing Slovenian champions Maribor. Despite losing forward Ben Sahar in the away match at Honved in July, Hapoel brought in Czech national Tomas Pekhart to reinforce to the offensive attack and snatched an improbable away goal at Ludogorets to advance in dramatic fashion last week.

The Israeli champions will host Maribor in the Northern Negev on August 16, with the return leg in Slovenia on August 22. If they win, the Desert Foxes will be throw to the wolves in the group stages and could be drawn into a group with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Chelsea. With a loss, they would be placed into the Europa League group stage – still a nice feather in their cap.

Next up, SC Altach

Who?

Exactly. You’ve got to be a UEFA supernerd to know about Altach, an Austrian club ranked 185th in UEFA, but here they are in the Europa League qualification playoff, taking on Maccabi Tel Aviv. Maccabi had a relatively easy go with Panionios in the last round, advancing 2:0 on aggregate with a pair of 1:0 wins, and now have one final hurdle to clear to qualify for the group stages. Maccabi will play at Altach on the 17th, with the return leg in Netanya on the 24th.

Nothing new under the sun

The run-up to the kickoff of Ligat Ha’al this year is relatively quiet, as it seems fairly clear that it will be a two-horse race yet again with Beer Sheva and Maccabi Tel Aviv duking it out for the top spot. But beyond the fate of the Top 2, there are several open questions about league play that should begin to be addresses between now and Rosh Hashanah.

  1. Will Maccabi Haifa find a way to right their sinking ship? The continued decline of this once-great club is borderline tragic, with the Greens finishing a stunning 40 points behind Beer Sheva when all was said and done in 2016-17. Their early form in Toto Cup action has been impressive, including a pair of 4:1 wins over Hapoel Haifa and Bnei Skahnin, but let’s not get all excited about domestic cup play in August.
  2. Will Beitar, with the timeless Yossi Benayoun now on the roster, challenge for a Top 2 position? I’m inclined to say no, particularly after their spectacular failure in Europa League qualification against Plovidv (1:5 on aggregate including an 0:4 result in Bulgaria).
  3. For those looking to embrace the underdog or a team that embraces coexistence and tolerance, look no further than Hapoel Katamon, who placed 6th in Liga Leumit last year, just 12 points away from promotion to Ligat Ha’al. With some luck, might promotion for next year be in the cards? Hope so.

League play gets going on August 19, with the match of the weekend being Maccabi Tel Aviv taking on Beitar.

A raging dumpster fire in Foxboro

The Revs are terrible this year and borderline unwatchable and have Dumpster_Fire_(3968047605)completely justified my non-renewal of our multi-game package for the first time in five years. It is hard to get excited about a team that is in second-to-last place, hasn’t won in 11 road games, never signs anyone flashy (Jermaine Jones being the singular exception), and still hasn’t built an urban stadium. I mean, they are 9 points behind Atlanta United – an expansion team. This is…not OK.

ICYMI

Eran Zahavi is in full-on beast mode – he is the leading goal-scorer in Chinese Premier league with 27 goals in 25 appearances. He is absolutely killing it in Guangzhou and life sure looks good on his Insta account. Keep it up, achi.

Brighton & Hove Albion rejected a 4-million pound bid for Tomer Hemed, who will return to the club this season in the EPL on the final year of his contract.

The New York Giants have a Jewish rookie offensive lineman and he’s got some interesting ink on his arms. Read on.

The USMNT’s Gold Cup win over Jamaica was pretty enjoyable. Jordan Morris’ late winner in the final was a huge goal for the young squad- hopefully they will continue their winning ways when the Hex starts up again on September 1.

Speaking of Dortmund, a friend of mine is in Germany this month and I casually mentioned that boy, it would be very cool if she were to snag me a Dortmund jersey with PULISIC 22 on the back (or even BROSGOL 5)? And I think it’s going to happen. Stay tuned for that black-and-gold photo, perhaps even of the long-sleeved variety.

And…

The Red Sox seem to have triumphed at the trade deadline with Eduardo Nunez coming over from the Giants, Addison Reed from the Mets, and Rafael Devers continuing his meteoric rise from the farm system all the way to third base at Fenway. The Sox, despite their manager, are absolutely heading in the right direction…with the (notable) exception of David Price.

The Celtics are totally winning the summer and it’s insane that everything is falling into place in the East. The exodus of stars to the Western Conference is a thing, Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland, and the Celtics just added Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. I mean, did you see Tatum in the Summer League? He was unreal. I don’t know about you, but Thomas, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Horford look good to me for a 55 wins and a potential spot as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of Golden State’s dynastic altar next June.

Oh yeah, and the Patriots are going to go 19-0. Didn’t you hear? And not only that, but they also bought two 767s as team planes…meaning that now they really do own the Jets. (Not my joke, but still hilarious).

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