Titleholder Atletico out to extend win streak at Hapoel
PARIS - Agence France-PresseDefending champion Atletico Madrid kicks off the defense of its Europa League title with a tricky away tie to Israeli club Hapoel Tel-Aviv tonight.
English Premier League trio Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham, as well as Italian heavyweight Inter Milan against Rubin Kazan, are all also in action and will be seeking to offer up better performances than their respective league representatives last time around.
Atletico Madrid, who boasts Turkish midfielders Arda Turan and Emre Belözoğlu in its squad, won last year’s final 3-0 over La Liga rival Athletic Bilbao and demolished Chelsea 4-1 in the UEFA Super Cup. Atletico will be looking to extend its European winning streak to 14 matches in the Group B clash.
Atletico right wing back Juanfran said: “We’ve made a very good start to the season, with good victories in the La Liga and in the Super Cup.
“We musn’t drop our guard, but follow on this path and try to be as strong and focused through until the end of the season.
“It’s the goal of the team and the coach, that we’re up all season long and that Atletico Madrid is where it needs to be in the year ahead.”
German-Turk Yeşil to play for Liverpool
Liverpool will bid to put up a better showing than the two Manchester clubs, who failed to shine in last year’s competition.
Manager Brendan Rodgers is set to hand a debut to teenage striker Samed Yeşil for the Group A match against Young Boys Berne.
But Rodgers will rest several senior stars for the Young Boys tie ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Anfield on Sept. 23 and that opens the way for Yeşil to feature against the Swiss side.
“Yeşil will certainly be fast-tracked,” Rodgers said of the 18-year-old born to a Turkish family in Düsseldorf. “He will be involved in the Europa League game. I watched him play (for Germany) against England Under-19s during the international break and he scored two terrific goals and set up another.”
Newcastle travels to Madeira to play Maritimo in Group D while Tottenham hosts Lazio in Group J.
Lazio has made a 100 percent start in Serie A after three games and travel to London on the back of a 3-1 win at Chievo on Sept. 16.
“This competition is very important,” said Andre, who insisted he will be fielding a ‘strong team’.
“It’s a tough competition, you have to play 15 games before you reach the final, so it’s hard and strenuous and the best teams out of the Champions League are playing.
“I always thought it was a prestigious competition.”