For the second time in their European campaign, Maccabi Tel Aviv have drawn Swiss club FC Basel, this time for two legs in the Europa League round of 32
In the draw held today at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switserland for the round of the last 32 of the Europa League, Maccabi Tel Aviv were once again paired with Swiss club FC Basel. The participants were divided into two groups, seeds and non-seeds, with Maccabi among the sixteen non-seeded clubs. Among the fifteen seeded clubs available, discounting Eintracht Frankfurt whom they faced in the group stage, Maccabi were coupled again with the Swiss champions who eliminated them in the qualifying stages of the Champions League. Maccabi will host the first encounter on February 20th and a week later will appear at Basel's St. Jakob-Park Stadium for the second leg.
At the same time as the draw was made for the round of 32, pairings were also determined for the final 16, in which the winner between Maccabi and Basel will meet the winner between Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and the Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg. The two legs of the final 16 will be played on the 13th and 20th of March.
Immediately following the draw, Maccabi Tel Aviv sports director Jordi Cruyff gave this reaction: "Our opponents had an excellent run in the Champions League, but on the other hand there is always the January transfer window and so it is possible that there might be some changes as they might sell their best players or change coaches. You can never know what will happen. I don’t think that Maccabi Tel Aviv are in a position to consider themselves favourites in European matches, especially after the group phase. For us it is just a nice experience and we are going to try and make the best of it and whatever happens, we will give it 100% and see how it goes. For Maccabi Tel Aviv the most important match is always the next one and the Basel match is going to be played in almost two months so there is a lot of time to prepare and to think about that game. We are very proud to be in this round and the only thing we can do is give the maximum without feeling under pressure".
FC Basel had an impressive run in Group E of the Champions League that included Bundesliga side Schalke, Romanian champions Steau Bucharest and eventual group winners and reigning Europa League Champions Chelsea. whom Basel managed to beat twice: 1-2 at Stamford Bridge in London on goals by striker Marco Streller and midfielder Mohamed Salah, and 1-0 at St. Jakob-Park on a second Salah effort. They were in the running to advance to the knockout round until the very last matchday of the group stage, when their 2-0 away defeat to Schalke left them third in the group with a ticket to continue in the Europa League, where they will now meet their old friends Maccabi Tel Aviv.