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Maccabi out to end losing streak

Published: Wednesday 3 November 2004, 10.10CET
Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC are seeking a rapid upturn in fortunes as they prepare to take on AFC Ajax in Group C.

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M. Tel-AvivAjax

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Attempts on target21
Attempts off target28
Fouls committed94
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Published: Wednesday 3 November 2004, 10.10CET

Maccabi out to end losing streak

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC are seeking a rapid upturn in fortunes as they prepare to take on AFC Ajax in Group C.

By Ofer Ronen-Abels in Tel-Aviv

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC are seeking a rapid upturn in fortunes as they prepare to take on AFC Ajax in the UEFA Champions League at the Ramat Gan stadium on Wednesday night.

Three defeats
Nir Klinger's side have lost all three games in Group C to date, having gone down 1-0 to both FC Bayern München and Juventus FC before losing 3-0 in Amsterdam a fortnight ago. Despite those defeats, however, Klinger believes his side have the potential to bounce back against their Dutch opponents.

Will to win
"We really want to win," said the Maccabi coach. "We played two good matches against Bayern and Juventus but our lack of experience cost us. Ajax were the better team a fortnight ago and their two early goals really destroyed us."

'Resistance and commitment'
"Commitment is the key," Klinger continued. "We need to play hard, be aggressive so that we can dominate. But my players have to be disciplined to achieve that. We should show better resistance and more commitment than what we displayed in Amsterdam. It would be a great achievement for us if we get a result, but what we do on the pitch is a lot more important than what we say before the match."

Weekend setback
It is anticipated that Maccabi will make changes following a 2-0 defeat against Beitar Jerusalem FC on Saturday, with Avi Strool in line to partner Marcio Giovanini in the heart of the defence after injury. Erez Mesika and Ishmael Addo could come into the side at the expense of Brazilian Bruno Reis and Cameroon forward Emile Mbamba.

Vital victory
Ajax's domestic form is also far from convincing, although the mounting pressure on coach Ronald Koeman was somewhat relieved by Rafael van der Vaart's goal against NEC Nijmegen on Sunday that ended a run of three Eredivisie matches without a win.

Home threat
Despite their recent travails, Koeman is confident in his side's ability to make their potential count against Maccabi, saying: "We played well at home and maybe Maccabi didn't reach their potential. They lost to Bayern and Juventus and we are also aware of their problems in the league. But Maccabi at home are a complete different side than they are away. We will try and start in the same way that we did at the Amsterdam ArenA but every game is a different story."

'Learing experience'
Koeman visited Israel while coach of SBV Vitesse for a UEFA Cup tie against Maccabi Haifa FC, but was quick to point out the differences between his former employers and his current side. "I am a coach of a bigger team now, with better players but also a lot more pressure," said the Ajax coach. "It was a good learning experience for me and something which has helped me establish my career as a coach."

Selections problems
Ajax are without first-choice goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont with a knee injury and Tomáš Galásek due to a back problem, while Brazilian midfield player Maxwell limped out of training on Tuesday with a groin strain.

Immediate ambition
Ajax have picked up only three points so far and, although more than 30,000 Maccabi fans are expected to attend, Koeman believes his side can emerge triumphant. Although not admitting to giving up hope of reaching the knockout round, the Ajax coach is focusing on the task in hand, adding: "We are here to make sure there is a difference between us and Maccabi to ensure we finish at least third."

Last updated: 03/11/04 13.57CET