Paulo Sousa has "high hopes" as his Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC side look to derail section leaders Eintracht Frankfurt in the fourth round of UEFA Europa League Group F matches.
The Israeli team were beaten 2-0 in Germany two weeks ago as Eintracht recorded their third win in as many outings to open up a five-point lead in the standings. Sousa's charges remain second, however, and with four victories from five home games in all competitions this season – and only one goal conceded – the coach believes an upset could be in the air.
"I am a very positive coach and a dreamer so I have high hopes for this match," Sousa explained. "However, we can't avoid the truth – even if Frankfurt make changes, we must be realistic. Our leagues are at different levels though we still have home advantage. We have a chance of progressing after winning at Bordeaux [on matchday two]. That has really given us the possibility of advancing."
Maccabi are top of the Israeli Premier League and, despite Monday's 3-2 defeat at Hapoel Beer Sheva FC, have let in just four goals in their eight league fixtures this term. "After losing on Monday we are ready for Frankfurt, it's our home stadium and we are feeling brave with the backing of our crowd," said Sousa.
Defender Eytan Tibi added: "We go into each game looking to win and past defeats have no effect on us. We will play our own game; we play as the coach has prepared us to play. The media have called us the best defensive team in the league, but it's too early in the season for this."
Eintracht – 15th in the Bundesliga – also lost at the weekend, 2-1 at home to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday, defender Johannes Flum explaining: "In the last league game we didn't concentrate, but we'll improve here. We are representing our fans and Germany."
Coach Armin Veh also thinks an improvement is necessary despite his squad's lofty European position, noting: "Maybe the win last time out looked easy, but it wasn't. We haven't been doing well recently but we have the chance to reach the knockout phase and Maccabi know that. Both sides are keen to succeed." The Eintracht boss is without a number of players due to illness, but said: "Any changes will be tactical to adapt to the opposition. I give the same amount of respect to every team we play."
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