Maccabi are ready for Chelsea, says Jokanovic


Slavisa Jokanovic insists Maccabi Tel Aviv have nothing to lose ahead of tonight's Champions League meeting with Chelsea.

The Israeli champions were crushed 4-0 in the first meeting at Stamford Bridge, but Jokanovic is confident his players will show their true colours at the Samy Ofer Stadium as they look to gain their first point of the group stages.

"We spoke many times about improving,” said Jokanovic. “We have improved but we must continue to do so.

"I'm not satisfied with just one goal and no points. We will be more competitive."

Maccabi have failed to score in open play in their first four matches. Eran Zahavi converted a penalty in the defeat against Porto and Jokanovic believes his team is ready to raise their game.

"The key will be to play solid defence and be more competitive and dangerous in the last third of the pitch," he said.

"We are playing a very important team and I expect we will see our best performance of the tournament to date.

"Maccabi has two important games and if we score six points we have a chance to play in the Europa League this coming spring."

Maccabi warmed-up for the Chelsea game with a 3-0 victory over Hapoel Haifa in Ligat Ha'Al on Saturday, with second-half strikes from Emmanuel Igiebor, Avraham Rikan and Zahavi, and Jokanovic hopes they can transfer their league form to Europe.

"For us it’s a very important day,” he said. “I’m not worrying about Chelsea and their issues and I am concentrating on my team and my job.

"We haven’t finished our work yet in the Champions League and it’s an opportunity for our staff and our club to fight as hard as we can and win the game."

Chelsea returned to winning ways against Norwich City on Saturday but manager Jose Mourinho is taking nothing for granted. "We haven't qualified yet but we are OK," he said. "Everything is in our hands. If we play like we have been doing, we can win.

"It's simple. If we lose, we are in trouble. If we draw, we can qualify in the last game. If we win, it’s a great chance to finish first."

Mourinho and his players have been in Israel since Sunday amid a tight ring of security. Unlike their last visit to Israel, no senior players withdrew from the squad due to unrest in the region, although that did not the Chelsea making disparaging remarks about former Blues player Graeme Le Saux - one of a group of six who chose not to fly to Israel 14 years ago.

Asked about security arrangements, Mourinho said: "I didn’t speak in a formal way to the squad. I didn’t have a meeting to ask them about their feelings. But I had a couple of individual contacts – more than a couple – to get the feeling.

“It’s not the same to go and play in Israel as it is to go and play in Stoke or Newcastle. The feeling is obviously different. But I got from them the sense of responsibility and, of course, everybody has travelled.

"Nobody even tried not to go. I didn’t have a single problem within the squad. I didn’t have a Graeme Le Saux. I had everybody without fears, just wanting to come. I even have a player whose wife is going to have a baby either tomorrow or the next day but he’s here, focusing on what he can do for us.

"The fact we went two days before has given us a bit of time to adapt and feel we are OK. We are safe, no problem, and we are just here to play our game."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive