|I||Athletic||H. Kiryat Shmona|
Fresh from defeating Chelsea FC in the UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Europa League holders Club Atlético de Madrid kick-off their defence away to Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in Group B.
• The sides have never met before and this is Atlético's first meeting with an Israeli club.
• Hapoel won their only previous game against Spanish opponents, beating Getafe CF 2-1 in the Madrid suburbs in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage. That is the only victory for an Israeli club against Spanish sides in 14 UEFA competition encounters, the record reading W1 D3 L10 (W0 D2 L4 at home – W1 D1 L6 away).
• Athletic Club, the side Atlético beat in May's 2011/12 UEFA Europa League final, also start their group stage campaign against Israeli opponents, taking on Premier League champions Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC in Bilbao.
• Having eased through the play-offs with a 7-1 aggregate defeat of F91 Dudelange, Hapoel are five matches unbeaten in Europe, winning the last four.
• Hapoel are embarking on their sixth UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, and third in succession. They made it through to the last 32 in two of those campaigns, most recently in 2009/10, but never beyond that.
• Following their 4-1 UEFA Super Cup success against Chelsea, Atlético are on a run of 13 straight wins in European competition since a 2-0 defeat at Udinese Calcio in last season's group stage.
• Atlético have won two of the three UEFA Europa Leagues since the competition took on its new identity.
• Falcao has won back-to-back UEFA Europa League titles, with FC Porto and then Atlético, finishing top scorer both seasons. He is bidding to become the first player to win the competition (in this guise and as the UEFA Cup before) three times in a row.
• This will be Atlético's fourth UEFA Europa League group stage; they have only once failed to reach the knockout phase, when they were last defending their title in 2010/11.
• Atlético's Falcao is now the joint-second highest scorer in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League, with he and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar having racked up 30 goals each. However, they need ten more goals if they are to match the competition's all-time top scorer, Henrik Larsson.
• Falcao has been the competition's top scorer for the last two seasons, with a record 17 goals for FC Porto in 2010/11 and 12 more for Atlético in 2011/12.
• Hapoel captain Walid Badier has made 63 appearances in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League. One more will see him join Mladen Petrić in fifth place in the competition's all-time rankings.
• One of Tel Aviv's favourite footballing sons, Avi Nimni, played seven Liga games for Atlético during an injury-ravaged spell in Spain in 1998 before returning to Hapoel's rivals Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC.
• Former Hapoel players who have played in Spain include Omri Afek (Real Racing Club 2003-05), Ilan Bakhar (Real Racing Club 2002-03), Ronen Harazi (UD Salamanca 1997-98), Haim Revivo (RC Celta de Vigo 1996-00), Ben Sahar (RCD Espanyol 2009-10) and Idan Tal (CP Mérida 1999-2000, Rayo Vallecano de Madrid 2003).
• Hapoel coach Nitzan Shirazi is from a footballing family – his father and brother were both in the game – and was a midfielder for Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC before drifting into lower league football. He established himself as a coach with Bnei Yehuda and led Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC and Hapoel Haifa FC. He joined Hapoel Tel-Aviv in January 2012, guiding them to State Cup success and runners-up spot in the league in his first campaign.
• Hired in December 2011, Atlético coach Diego Simeone picked up the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup trophies in his first eight months in charge, to add to the considerable haul he won as a defensive midfielder. A Spanish double-winner in 1995/96 in the first of two spells with Atlético, the man capped 106 times by Argentina captured the 1997/98 UEFA Cup at FC Internazionale Milano and then an Italian double in 1999/2000 with S.S. Lazio.
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