Maccabi Haifa FC are determined to put the disappointment of their UEFA Champions League play-off defeat behind them when they host Cypriot side AEK Larnaca FC in Group J.
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Maccabi Haifa FC will hope to make it through the UEFA Europa League group stage, as they did in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup, when they kick off their Group J campaign against AEK Larnaca FC.
• The sides are meeting for the first time in Europe and this is also Haifa's first contest with Cypriot opponents.
• AEK took on Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup second qualifying round; they won the home leg 3-0 in Nicosia thanks to Dragan Isailović's first-half hat-trick, but were thrashed 4-0 in the return fixture in Tel Aviv.
• Haifa played five home games at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia – where the return leg of this fixture will be played – during their 2002/03 European campaign, winning three and losing two. Those results included 3-0 victories against Olympiacos FC and Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League first group stage.
• Haifa have won their last four European home games since losing 1-0 to FC Girondins de Bordeaux in their final 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage game.
• They are on a five-game continental winning streak at the Kiryat Eliazer Stadium since a 2-0 loss to CF Gloria 1922 Bistriţa in the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup.
• Prior to this season, AEK had lost all four of their European away games without scoring a single goal. However, they kicked off this campaign with an 8-0 win at Floriana FC – their best European result to date – and have drawn their two subsequent fixtures on their travels.
• AEK striker Miljan Mrdjaković played in Israel with Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC in the 2006/07 season.
• Having previously led FC Ashdod in the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup, Elisha Levi has won league titles with the club in 2008/09 and 2010/11 and took his side through a UEFA Champions League group stage campaign two seasons ago.
• AEK are coached by Dutchman Ton Caanen, with help from sporting director Jordi Cruyff – son of the great Johan Cruyff. Following a spell in Ukraine with FC Metalurh Donetsk, Caanen was in charge of Beitar Jerusalem FC and Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC in Israel. He later coached FC Stal Alchevsk and Maltese side Valletta FC before coming to ambitious AEK in 2010.