Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv begin their Champions League campaign tonight when they take on the amateurs of Santa Coloma.
UEFA switched the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round tie from Israel to Andorra due to the current situation in the Middle East, with Maccabi and Santa Coloma both agreeing to exchange venues for the home and away legs.
The only other meeting between the two provided the Andorrans with their only European win back in 2007. However, despite falling to a 1-0 defeat, the Israelis ran out 4-0 winners in the second leg.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, Tel Aviv coach Oscar Garcia said: “They have a lot of Spanish players. Spanish players know how to compete and counter-attack. We want to go through and we know we have two games to do so, but we want to win there.”
Commenting on the ongoing sitation in Israel, midfielder Gal Alberman said: “This isn’t the best feeling in the world. We left our families in Israel but we are facing an important mission. We are very excited to be starting a new season and we hope to get it off on the right foot.
“I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be an easy match. We are aware of how difficult it could be, but we believe in ourselves.”
Next Tuesday’s second leg was scheduled to take place in Israel, though UEFA has already requested that Maccabi arrange an alternative venue for the second leg, if the situation remains the same. The Israelis have looked into staging the game in Cyprus, where Israeli sides hosted matches during the Second Intifada.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba are involved in Europa League qualifying action on Thursday. Both were meant to play their first leg ties in Israel, though instead switched to playing away first – Tel Aviv going to Kazakhstan to play Astana, while Beersheba travel first to Croatia to take on RNK Split.