Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Zenit Europa League Preview

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Zenit Europa League Preview

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Zenit will be the first time that the two clubs face one another in any UEFA competition. In fact, neither side has ever played a match against a team from the opposition’s country (read Zenit Saint Petersburg Europa League Preview right here).

Despite the fact that the two clubs have never played one another, and the fact that Zenit fans will have to travel 3,100 kilometres, it can be expected that several thousand Zenit fans will be in attendance at the Netanya Municipal Stadium on Thursday night.

Indeed, Israel has been a popular travel destination for Russians, as Russian citizens do not need a visa to enter the country, and many direct flights between Russia and Tel-Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport should result in an electric atmosphere with many fans from both clubs in attendance.

Zenit manager, Mircea Lucescu, meanwhile, will be looking to get his maiden European campaign with his new club off the ground with a positive result. Zenit are currently sixth in the Russian Football Premier League but, after a slow start, managed a convincing 5-0 victory against Arsenal Tula on Sunday.

The match against Tula could serve as a benchmark for what Lucescu wants to achieve in Zenit’s first Europa League group stage match. Zenit played with a 4-2-3-1 formation against Tula. But Aleksandr Kokorin and Oleg Shatov both looked more like forwards rather than wingers in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which meant that the formation, at times, looked like a 4-3-3 formation.

Lucescu loves offensive football, and it appears that Zenit’s players are slowly buying into the philosophy of the Romanian manager. Lucescu wants to beat teams through speed, and attacking flexibility and, with wingers such as Shatov and Kokorin, and Róbert Mak, Zenit now has the speed to outrun the opposition.

Another fantastic buy has been the Brazilian, Giuliano, who could become the Alex Teixeira/Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Zenit Saint Petersburg. At Shakhtar, Lucescu turned Alex Teixeira and Henrikh Mkhitaryan into explosive attacking midfielders, who often looked like second strikers.

Giuliano, who technically is a winger, looked sharp on Sunday as a second striker behind Artem Dzyuba, and managed to get on the scoreboard. Recently, Giuliano has been called up to the Brazilian Seleção and could become the latest Brazilian superstar formed by Lucescu.

Maccabi, meanwhile, are only one of two teams, who have made it from the first qualifying round to the group stage of the Europa League—the other is Qäbälä. They may be facing their toughest challenge yet, but the Israelis have won all their Europa League home matches so far, and will be looking to continue their winning streak.

Possible Line-ups

Maccabi Tel-Aviv:

Formation: 3-5-2

Rajkovic – Dasa, Ben Haim, Ben Harush – Scarione, Micha, Igiebor, Peretz, Medunjanin – Ben Haim, Kjartansson

Manager: Shota Arveladze

Zenit Saint Petersburg:

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Lodygin – Zhirkov, Criscito, Novoseltsev, Smolnikov – Witsel, Garcia – Shatov, Giuliano, Kokorin – Dzyuba

Manager: Mircea Lucescu

By Manuel Veth –