Who is Maccabi Tel-Aviv: Profiling Panionios’ Europa League Opponents
Maccabi Tel-Aviv are Israel’s most successful club. AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis looks into the Israeli giants that Panionios are about to battle.
Panionios will face seasoned European opposition in the form of Israeli side Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The Israeli giants will represent a massive challenge to Panionios. After missing out on domestic honors last season, finishing 2nd in both the league and cup, Maccabi appointed sporting director Jordi Cruyff to head coach in hopes of bringing back the titles.
The first signs are positive as Maccabi have waltzed through the early rounds of the Europa League qualifiers. Returning to the top at the domestic level and making the Group Stage in Europe are the goals this season. The departure of the influential Tal Ben-Haim will be good news for Panionios, but this remains a very difficult opponent.
Maccabi have a decent record against Greek sides, though Panionios will hope they can spring the surprise. Either way, Panionios will have to be at their best to get through this match-up against such an experienced European club.
Stadium: Netanya Stadium (Capacity 13,610)
Titles: 21 Israeli Premier League Titles, 23 State Cups, 2 Asian Club Championships, 4 Toto Cups, 5 Israeli SuperCups
Coach: Jordi Cruyff
Cruyff’s path as a manager will be one of the more interesting stories to follow during this European season. This will be the Dutchman’s first foray into management, at least as the head coach of a club. Since ending his playing career in 2010, Cruyff has spent his time predominantly as a sporting director at AEK Larnaca in Cyprus and for Maccabi since 2012. He is off to a good start in the Europa League qualifiers and it remains to be seen whether he can transition between sporting director and manager successfully.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The main man at the moment for Maccabi Tel-Aviv is none other than Icelandic striker Viðar Örn Kjartansson. The 27-year-old Kjartansson led the Israeli Premier League last season with 19 goals and scored 24 goals total in all competitions.
Tal Ben Haim and Yossi Benayoun, two big players in last year’s squad have been transferred away this summer. In their place, the likes of winger Omer Atzili and Italian midfielder Cristian Battocchio have been brought in.
LAST SEASON RECAP
In the Israeli Premier League, Maccabi managed a 2nd-placed finish during the 2016/17 campaign behind champions Hapoel Be'er Sheva. Maccabi also came up just short in the Israeli State Cup, advancing to the final but losing on penalties to city rivals Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv.
In Europe, Tel-Aviv advanced to the Group Stage of the Europa League. Once there, they could not proceed in the tournament, instead they finished 3rd in a group that also included Zenit, AZ Alkmaar, and Dundalk.
THIS YEAR IN EUROPE
So far, Maccabi have waltzed through the first two rounds of Europa League qualifiers. Against Albanian side FK Tirana, Cruyff’s team recorded a 5-0 victory. It was a similar aggregate scoreline in the next round as Icelandic side KF were swept aside 5-1 over the two games.
PRIOR HISTORY VERSUS GREEK CLUBS
Maccabi has played against Greek sides on several occasions, mostly with positive results for the Israelis. Maccabi first took on a Greek club back in 2004/05 defeating PAOK 4-0 over two legs in a Champions’ League qualifier.
Olympiacos were the team’s next victims in 2010 when Maccabi advanced on away goals in the two teams’ Europa League qualifiers (2-2 on aggregate).
The next season another Greek team, Panathinaikos, was bounced out of the Europa League once again by the Israelis as they triumphed 4-2 on aggregate.
It was finally a different story in 2014/15, when once again in the Europa League qualifiers, Asteras Tripolis eliminated their opponents on away goals after the two legs ended in a 3-3 aggregate score.