Maccabi Tel Aviv ready for Chelsea test


Slavisa Jokanovic says he is looking forward to returning to Stamford Bridge ahead of tonight’s meeting against Chelsea in the Champions League.

Maccabi booked their place in the group stages with a dramatic two-legged victory over Basel but they will find things significantly tougher against the Premier League Chelsea who have made a poor start to the season.

"It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Jokanovic on the Maccabi website.”Chelsea is part of my past and here I am once again.

"I was here at the beginning of 2015 when I was with Watford and we took a step to having the club promoted to the Premier League. I didn’t remain with the team after the season but as you see I found my way back to London, I had some great years in England and I’m happy to be with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

"It’s a great test to see how we will fare against a very strong opponent. I’m happy to see how Chelsea continues to advance and improve and I believe they have a terrific future ahead of them for decades to come.”

Maccabi are preparing for their first Champions League group stage campaign for 11 years. Eran Zahavi has been in prolific form for club and country of late, although some bookmakers have the Israeli champions down as 16-1 outsiders for victory on the night.

"Jose Mourinho is one of the greatest managers in the world, and I think that the cards he can play are a bit better than mine.

"We of course respect Chelsea, the club and the manager as they are one of the best in Europe, but we also have to respect ourselves and perform properly. We don’t just play with five players but a whole team. That’s how to play football.

"To play against Chelsea is always a great opportunity. It’s not my problem as to how Chelsea is doing in the Premier League.

"I'm surprised that they’ve only collected four points and I’m sure we won’t have many chances tomorrow night as they are going to come into the match with extra motivation to try and deal with the issues that they’ve been having.

"They have a game against Arsenal coming up and I’m sure they are dealing with it, but that’s not my problem."

Chelsea will be missing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, with Asmir Begovic filling in in goal, while striker Radamel Falcao is a doubt with a leg injury.

Another player returning to his former club is Maccabi defender Tal Ben Haim. He knows the odds are stacked against Maccabi but he says the team will

Ben Haim commented: "I’m very excited to return here and coming back with Maccabi is extra special. I learnt a tremendous amount during the four months I played under Mourinho.

"It’s too bad that I was only at Chelsea for a short period, but that’s football. I’m sure Mourinho is preparing his side very well for the match against us.

“Everyone must be surprised about Chelsea’s poor start to the season, but I’m sure they’ll get over it quickly and begin to win some games. Hopefully it won’t be against us.

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