Hapoel Tel Aviv one draw away from Europa knockouts

By Simon Griver, November 26, 2009
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Europa League

Hapoel Tel Aviv manager Eli Guttman is not taking anything for granted ahead of Wednesday’s clash against Celtic, where they need only a point to advance to the knockout stage.

With two matches left to play, Hapoel have become the surprise package in Europe. They lie two points clear at the top of Group C, and will also progress if Rapid Vienna fail to win in Hamburg the same night.

Gutman said: “In football nothing is ever certain. We have two very difficult matches at Celtic and at home to Hamburg and getting that point will not be easy unless we play our best. I don’t want to have to start worrying about results in other games.

“I’m looking forward to the experience of playing in Glasgow in front of the Celtic fans. We will not be intimidated. We beat Rapid Vienna 3-0 in our last game in front of 49,000 fans.”

Hapoel have also recovered from a shaky start in Israel’s Premier League and moved into second place after thumping Maccabi Petah Tikvah 7-1.

If they come through Saturday’s league game against Bnei Yehuda unscathed, they will have a full-strength squad for Celtic. The team combines foreign players including goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who helped Nigeria reach the World Cup earlier this month, and Brazilian defender Douglas Da Silva, with some of Israel’s best players including veteran midfield enforcer Walid Badir, top-scorer Itay Schechter and the fast improving Bibers Natcho.

Guttman has been tipped to take over the vacant Israel job.

Last updated: 10:27am, December 1 2009