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Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC coach Nir Klinger has described tonight's meeting with FC Bayern München as "the highest point of his career" but warned the best was yet to come.
The Group C encounter at the Ramat Gan national stadium will be the first UEFA Champions League match to be played in Israel. The game falls on the eve of the Jewish New Year but Klinger urged Maccabi fans to still turn out in force for the visit of the Bundesliga side, and a capacity crowd is expected. He said: "For those who haven't made up their minds yet I can say - don't miss the chance to support us. You can all arrive with a full stomach and enjoy a fantastic occasion."
For all the 38-year-old coach's excitement, he was keen to stress that Maccabi were not content to just revel in having made it this far. "It is the highest point of my career both as a player and a manager," he added. "But from my experience I have learned that behind every peak hides another peak - so I have a lot to look forward to.
Confidence in team
"We will face a hot favourite with a tremendous history and will try to meet the challenge but it will also not be a matter of life and death, they should also try to enjoy themselves.
I feel that my players are confident they will not be surprised, and I am sure their knees will not turn to jelly."
Klinger has one major fitness problem as Ghanaian striker Ishmael Addo is doubtful with an ankle injury sustained during Saturday's 1-0 victory at Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin FC. If Addo does not make it, Bayern coach Felix Magath will certainly be relieved, having identified him as one of the Israeli side's three biggest threats. He said: "They have a very dangerous striker in Ishmael Addo, while the two midfielders, Bruno Reis, and Barukh Dago, can also cause us problems."
Should Addo miss out, Klinger may start with Cameroon-born striker Emile Mbamba. Meanwhile, in the absence of Salem Abo-Siam, who is serving a one-match suspension, Klinger should hand a debut to recent arrival Yehoshua Nigar. Magath has worries of his own with captain Oliver Kahn receiving treatment for a thigh injury. However, the coach, who only took charge of the club in the summer after last season's heroics with VfB Stuttgart, is confident his goalkeeper will play.
Magath also believed Peruvian international striker Claudio Pizarro would be fit although fellow forward Vahid Hashemian did not make the trip, Magath confirming the Iranian had picked up a back injury in Saturday's 1-0 home win against DSC Arminia Bielefeld. Pizarro has not played yet this season but his return would ease the responsibility on Roy Makaay. The Dutch striker said his team were going all out for victory, and nothing else. "We don't want to drop points here," he said.
'Much to lose'
His coach stressed, however, that Bayern, who have not won an away fixture in the Champions League since 2001/02, would not take anything for granted. "
We have great respect for Maccabi Tel-Aviv," Magath said. "They are a new team in the competition playing for the first time and they have young players who will fight hard. Of course, we have much more to lose and therefore we want to win so that we have the points to set us on our way for the rest of the competition."
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