Seven years have passed since the last time Maccabi Haifa experienced a home stage in the European arena and this season (“thanks” to Corona), it is only four victories away from a European winter. The path of the Greens will open on August 27 with the first qualifying round of the Europa League and will do so with Sami Ofer against Bosnian runners-up Jelznicar.
In contrast to previous seasons in which Israel sent a representative to the second qualifying round of the Europa League, this season all three representatives start in the first round. Maccabi Haifa, which finished in second place in 2019/20, was ranked in Group 11 together with the Cypriot Apollo Limassol and Alashkart from Armenia, which arranged a very simple draw for it.
Maccabi Haifa, as mentioned, will face Zeleznicar – a name quite familiar to the average Israeli fan. The Bosnian runner-up has previously met Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv and was crushed in front of both. The Reds scored 0: 1 and 0: 5 in the 2010/11 Champions League qualifiers (on the way to the home stage) and the Yellows defeated the opponent 0: 2 in Sarajevo and 0: 6 in Bloomfield in the 2011/12 Europa League qualifiers.
As is well known, because Israel is considered a red state in the rank of coronary heart disease, Zelzenichar will have the right to refuse to come to Israel. In such a situation, Maccabi Haifa will have to find a neutral exciting overseas otherwise it will suffer a technical loss. Riga has already agreed to come to Israel to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League qualifiers so the Greens have reason to be optimistic.
Zeleznicar was founded a little less than 99 years ago and is considered one of the oldest and most decorated groups in Bosnia. When the country was part of Yugoslavia, the Blues were permanent members of the Premier League and even won the championship in 1971/2. With the establishment of the Bosnian league, it had a successful team in it with six championships, seven runners-up and six trophies. Her record achievement is the 1984/5 UEFA Cup semi-final.
Last season, Zeleznicar finished in second place, three points away from city rivals Sarajevo, but that was because the league was stopped early due to the Corona. The Bosnian league was already underway last week and the Blues already have two wins from two games.
Zeleznicar lost its top scorer last season to Suleiman Karpic in January and relies solely on Yugoslav players (holding three Croats and two Serbs in addition to an absolute local squad). The midfielder Samir Stilich is its leading player and last season he scored eight goals plus five assists, and apart from him, the back midfielder Petar Boyu, the wing player from Laden and Slinovic and Damir Svikovic stand out.
The coach of Zelzhenicar is Amar Osim. The 53-year-old coach returned for a third term in the summer of 2018, but can be said to be the less successful of the previous two. In the first he led the Blues to two championships in Bosnia and two trophies and in the second he won three championships and two trophies.