Hapoel Beer Sheva are the unknown quantity in Group C. The club was founded in 1949 – one year after the state of Israel – and promotion to the top-flight came in 1965. Beer Sheva, a town with a population of 200,000 in the south of Israel, is about 100 km away from Jerusalem on the edge of the Negev. Hapoel has its roots in the Israeli labour movement (the word Hapoel means worker). In the 1970s, the club were champions of Israel and Super Cup winners for the first time. Hapoel have won the national Ligat Toto five times – and recently three times in succession in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Hapoel Beer Sheva made their first European appearance in the middle of the 1990s qualifying for the first round of the UEFA Cup in 1995/96 where they were knocked out by Barcelona (0-5, 0-7). Hapoel were twice relegated to the second division after that. But the club has now been established in the first division for over a decade. The team coached by Yossi Abukasis finished fourth last season and they won the Israeli cup competition for the first time since 1997. They beat Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-0 in the final.
Hapoel Beer Sheva have battled their way through all four qualifying rounds in the Europa League this term knocking out Dinamo Batumi (Georgia, 3-0), KF Laci (Albania, 2-1), Motherwell (Scotland, 3-0) and Viktoria Pilsen (Czech Republic, 1-0). The top scorer in the qualifiers was the Portuguese Josué with four goals. The 30-year-old attacking midfielder joined from the youth set-up at FC Porto where he was in the first team squad for four years. And the captain Miguel Vitor (31) is also Portuguese. The central defender played for Benfica, Leicester City and PAOK Saloniki. The team also includes two Argentinian midfielders Mariano Bareiro and Marcelo Meli, the Colombian central striker Jhonathan Agudelo and winger Elton Acolatse, a Dutchman with Ghanaian routes. Coach Abukasis’ squad is full of international experience – something he does not possess. The 50-year-old has only coached Israeli sides and he was also assistant coach to the Israeli national team. And he never played abroad during his playing career.
Hapoel play their home games at an the Turner Stadium that opened in 2015 and has a capacity of 16,126.
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