Atlético aiming to get back on track
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
After seeing their record winning streak halted last time out, holders Club Atlético de Madrid will be aiming for a return to winning ways at home to eliminated Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC.
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Club Atlético de Madrid will look to take a significant step towards defending their UEFA Europa League crown as eliminated Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC visit in Group B.
• Atlético top the section and will be sure of a place in the round of 32 if they defeat Hapoel, who can no longer reach the knockout phase.
• In what was their first meeting with an Israeli club, Atlético were 3-0 winners at Hapoel Tel-Aviv on matchday one – Cristian Rodríguez and Diego Costa struck in quick succession just before the interval and Raúl García rubber-stamped the victory shortly after the hour mark.
• Hapoel had 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 16 UEFA competition encounters, the record reading W1 D4 L11 (W0 D2 L5 at home – W1 D2 L6 away).
• Atlético's 2-0 loss at A. Académica de Coimbra on matchday four ended their record-breaking 16-game winning run in UEFA club competition.
• Hapoel's 4-0 loss at FC Viktoria Plzeň on the same night matched their worst ever result in European competition – a 4-0 defeat at Rangers FC in the UEFA Cup round of 32 on 22 February 2007.
• Atlético have won their last 11 European games at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, though their last home loss came on matchday five of a previous UEFA Europa League campaign – 3-2 against FC Aris Thessaloniki in the 2010/11 competition.
• Atlético midfielder Saúl Ñiguez turns 18 on the eve of the match.
• Hapoel are within three goals of scoring their 150th in UEFA club competition; this will be their 103rd UEFA game.
• Atlético's Falcao is the joint-second highest scorer in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League, he and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar having racked up 30 goals each. They need ten more if they are to match the competition's all-time top scorer, Henrik Larsson.
• Falcao has won back-to-back UEFA Europa League titles, with FC Porto and then Atlético, finishing top scorer both seasons (with a record 17 goals for FC Porto in 2010/11 and 12 more for Atlético in 2011/12). 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.
• Hapoel captain Walid Badier has made 67 appearances in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League and is fourth in the all-time standings. He needs two more appearances to join former FC Internazionale Milano goalkeeper Walter Zenga in third place.
• 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).
• 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.
• Yossi Abuksis took over as Hapoel coach ahead of matchday two, with his predecessor Nitzan Shirazi taking up a role as the club's general manager due to health issues. Capped 35 times as a midfielder, Abuksis won a league title as a Hapoel player, and two more at Beitar Jerusalem FC. He was assistant coach at Hapoel (2008–11), and took sole command at Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC in 2011/12. He is working at Hapoel in tandem with a role as assistant to Israel coach Eli Guttman.