Top spot up for grabs in Tel Aviv

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Top spot in Europa League Group C will be up for grabs when Hamburg travel to Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday night.

Both sides are already assured of their place in the last 32 with Hamburg currently top on 10 points, Hapoel second on nine and Celtic unable to qualify on five points.

However, there is still plenty to play for with the group winners securing a more favourable draw for the last 32 on Friday. The last 32 includes the top two teams from each of the 12 groups, plus the eight teams who finish third in their Champions League group.

The 12 group winners and the four best third-ranked teams from the Champions League groups will be drawn against the 12 Europa League group runners-up and the remaining Champions League teams.

Group winners also have the advantage of playing the second leg of their last-32 tie at home. Hamburg, who will host the Europa League final in May, beat Hapoel 4-2 at home on matchday two, but Hapoel are unbeaten in four European home games this season with two draws and two wins.

However, Hamburg have an impressive away record too, winning 13 of their last 16 European away games, only losing to Bayer Leverkusen, Manchester City and Rapid Vienna. And manager Bruno Labbadia and his players shrugged off today's early start and any concerns about the weather in Israel as they headed to Tel Aviv.

The team met at 6.40am for an 8am flight but midfielder Marcell Jansen said: "This is not a problem. We have worked hard over the last season and we don't mind getting up early."

Club manager Bernd Wehmeyer has been in Tel Aviv since Tuesday morning and added on the club's website:

"The weather is fine. It will certainly be no problem. During the day although it is warm, but at night it cools down to a good five to eight degrees. They are pleasant temperatures in order to play football."

Tolgay Arslan is ineligible so 18-year-old Soren Bertram is included in the 18-man squad which has travelled to Tel Aviv.

Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking to star striker Itay Shechter to continue his impressive form, the 22-year-old having scored 14 goals in 20 games this season.

However, that form has reportedly attracted the interest of several clubs in Europe, ironically including Hamburg.

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