A momentous night for Maccabi Haifa as they play their first Champions League group-stage match on home soil against Bayern Munich.
In 2002/03 the Isareli side qualified for the group stages, but played their home matches at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Haifa coach Elisha Levi said that despite his side’s lack of experience at this exalted level, he expected Bayern to take the match seriously.
“I don’t think that Bayern see us as a minor event; at this level there is a lot of respect between teams,” he said. “I know we respect Bayern a lot. We are competing in the Champions League because we want to play against the best.
“We had a place in the UEFA Europa League in our grasp but we wanted better. We are going to keep playing the game we have always played. First of all we have to believe, and secondly we must be professional; we have the honor of playing in Europe and we will do our best.
Levi will be without Tiago Dutra who has a knee injury, and Jhon Culma Jairo who is serving a one-game ban.
Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, who is feeling more comfortable in his role following back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga, is refusing to take tonight’s opponets lightly.
“Bayern always expect to win,” he said. “Our scouts have seen Maccabi Haifa twice and I watched the videos on the plane.
“Maccabi are aggressive attackers but many teams are more careful when they play against Bayern. I think in two or three years we can win the Champions League, but it will take a lot of hard work of course. Every team has a chance and the proof is that we have lost to smaller teams in Bundesliga.”
Van Gaal will be without the injured Luca Toni, Martín Demichelis, Mark van Bommel, and Andreas Gorlitz.