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Stevens backing comeback kings

"We still believe we can change it around," said FC Salzburg coach Huub Stevens ahead of the play-off second leg at a Maccabi Haifa FC team strongly placed to progress after a 2-1 first-leg victory.

Alexander Zickler scored Salzburg's first-leg goal
Alexander Zickler scored Salzburg's first-leg goal ©Getty Images

Winners of their last two away ties in this UEFA Champions League qualifying campaign, FC Salzburg need to make it a hat-trick to overturn last week's play-off home defeat by Maccabi Haifa FC and their coach, Huub Stevens retained hope as he declared on the eve of the game: "We still believe we can change it around."

Elisha Levi, Maccabi coach
We know we're playing against a strong team. For us it is very important to win and to advance to the next stage.Both teams will be playing their third match in six days so tiredness should not be an excuse. It's the most important match for us and we will be prepared both physically and mentally so we will have all the energy we need. As usual we will focus on our attack but still we will try and defend as well as we did in Salzburg.

Huub Stevens, Salzburg coach
It's always difficult to lose a home game but still it was a decent 90 minutes [in the first leg] and we will try better this time. After the game I was disappointed but that's not a reason to be unhappy tomorrow. I've seen games where teams lose 6-0 at home, for me that is a failure, but losing 2-1 to Maccabi Haifa is not, it is acceptable. I saw Haifa's game with [FK] Aktobe [in the previous round] and we still think that we can change it round here and we are not afraid to try.

Key facts
• Salzburg face a daunting assignment in Israel after going down 2-1 to Haifa in the first leg on 19 August. Mohammad Ghadir (22) and Shlomi Arbeitman (84) scored either side of Alexander Zickler (57) for the hosts to leave Levi's side strongly placed to book their return to the group stage after a seven-year absence.

• The clubs faced each other in the 1994/95 qualifying round, Salzburg prevailing 5-2 on aggregate to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the only previous time.

• The Austrian outfit came from behind to win the first leg that year 2-1 in Haifa thanks to Mladen Mladenović's 89th-minute spot-kick, Adolf Hütter having earlier cancelled out Haim Revivo's penalty opener.

• In their only meeting against Israeli opponents, Salzburg completed the job a fortnight later, with Mladenović scoring two more goals and Nikola Jurčević also finding the net before Haifa's Alon Hazan scored a last-minute consolation. Maccabi's veteran defender Alon Harazi was in the starting XI for both legs.

How they reached the play-offs
• Maccabi reached the play-off round thanks to a remarkable comeback against Aktobe in the third qualifying round. Following a goalless away draw, they were 3-0 down after just 15 minutes in Haifa but battled back to win 4-3, Vladimer Dvalishvili scoring the final two goals. Levi's men had earlier seen off Glentoran FC 10-0 in the second qualifying round.

• Salzburg have relied on their away form to get them this far. They drew both at home to Bohemian FC and NK Dinamo Zagreb before winning each tie with late goals in the subsequent away leg, Patrik Jezek's 86th-minute goal earning a 1-0 win at Bohemians and Robin Nelisse's effort seven minutes from time securing a 2-1 success in Zagreb.

Team news
Out: none
Suspended: Dekel Keinan
Misses next match if booked: Nir Davidovitch, Eyal Golasa, Jhon Culma Jairo, Eyal Meshumar, Tsepo Masilela, Lior Refaelov

Out: René Aufhauser (adductor), Karel Pitak (cruciate ligament), Louis Ngwat-Mahop (muscular)
Suspended: Christian Schwegler, Thomas Augustinussen
Misses next match if booked: Edward Gustafsson, Milan Dudić, Franz Schiemer, Admir Vladavič

Weekend results
22/08/09 Maccabi 2-1 Hapoel Akko FC (Israeli Ligat Ha'Al)
(Katan 36, Arbeitman 89; Elmalich 53)

22/08/09 SC Wiener Neustadt 1-1 Salzburg (Austrian Bundesliga)
(Aigner 10; Janko 40)

Did you know?
Both teams are striving to secure their second participation in the UEFA Champions League. Since appearing in the competition in 1994/95, Salzburg have fallen short in four subsequent qualifying bids. Maccabi have failed in five of their six previous attempts.