After only one month with the team, Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Avi Rikan has seamlessly transitioned into one of the key players on the squad that just advanced to the Champions League group stages. Rikan had a stunning assist on Eran Zahavi's header goal in the 1:0 victory over Hapoel Beer Sheva and has proved to be a major cog in Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic's machine.
It's as if you've been playing with Maccabi for years:
First off thanks, but I've worked very hard to make sure I can fit into Maccabi's plans. I am young and I feel young and I feel great playing with this group of players. I've been able to settle in nicely and I can play a number of roles that the coach wants me to play. I'm happy that I'm in good shape and this will give me the drive to continue to do the best that I can.
How everyone make sure that Maccabi would be 100% focused on this match?
There were many discussions about making sure to come into this match properly after such a high last week and have let up, but we took the three points and played well. We had a tough game against Basel last week and we were tired but we did what we needed to do and now I have to get ready for a week with the Israel National Team.
Beer Sheva is a tough team. How do you feel they played this evening?
Beer Sheva pressured us and they played very well, but Maccabi is always a dangerous club. We tried to find the right balance at the beginning of the match but it took time to do so. Every game we come in as favorites and because of that other teams what a piece of us. But it's very important that we maintain ball possession in these types of matches.
Beer Sheva will battle with us for the title all year long and they have a very good, deep squad. They are dangerous on set pieces and they had some chances this evening.
What can you say about the goal, Eran Zahavi and the new 'keeper Predrag Rajkovic?
I'm happy that I was able to get Eran the ball with my assist and I served it to him well and he scored. There's nothing more I can say about a player like Eran.
We met the new keeper this morning and we're happy that he was able to adapt to our play very quickly. Of course there is plenty for him to learn and catch up with us but he did great work and I'm happy that he had a successful first match and gained confidence with the win.
Just a word about Juan Pablo as I only knew him for a month but he did amazing work here and he will be missed.