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Ħamrun Spartans face Israel giants Maccabi Haifa in Champions League

Ħamrun Spartans were drawn to face Israeli giants Maccabi Haifa in the UEFA Champions League as the draws of the European elite competition were held on Tuesday afternoon.

The Spartans are back in UEFA’s premier competition for the first time after an absence of more than 30 years and were put in Group 3 of Tuesday’s qualifying draw, facing the prospect of meeting some daunting opponents in the draw.

And in fact, the Reds, who were crowned as Malta champions for the ninth time in their history last April, were pitted against Maccabi Haifa, a team who boasts great tradition in playing in the group stages of the Champions League.

The first leg of the tie will be played at the Centenary Stadium on either July 11 or 12.

In fact, last season Maccabi Haifa were pitted against Juventus, Paris Saint Germain and Benfica in the group stages.

The Israeli side managed to secure a prestigious result in their penultimate home fixture in the group when they beat Juventus 2-0 in Haifa.

Maccabi are the oldest and most decorated football club in Israel. 

In fact, Maccabi have won the Israel championship 23 times in their history and the Cup 24 times.

Last season, they were crowned champions after amassing 81 points to finish seven points clear of rivals Hapoel Beer Sheva.

No doubt, Haifa will turn out to be a very daunting opponent for the Spartans, now under the charge of Italian coach Luciano Zauri.

The Italian coach, who replaced Branko Nisevic at the helm of the team, is currently stepping up the team’s preparations for their European participation as they are in the middle of pre-season training.

On Monday, the Spartans suffered a blow to their Champions League preparations when goalkeeper Henry Bonello suffered a hand fracture during national team duty in Slovakia against Ukraine and is highly doubtful to be fit for the tie.

However, the Spartans are unlikely to delve into the market to find a replacement as they are set to head into the European competition with Winiston Cristian Santos and Matthias Debono while they could also be tempted, if needed, to bring Steve Sultana, on loan from Nadur, as cover.

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