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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

Transfer Rater: Bellerin to Barcelona

By ESPN Staff

Maccabi Haifa chief laments UEFA ruling

Maccabi Haifa trained behind locked gates at Anfield in the midst of intense security ahead of their Champions League clash with Liverpool.

And Haifa coach Roni Levy claimed that by denying them home advantage of the second leg in a fortnight - forcing the Israeli champions to find a neutral venue - UEFA had robbed them of any real chance of beating the five times European champions.

Armed police patrolled the surrounding streets and nearby Stanley Park, and for tomorrow's third qualifying round first leg, Anfield will have the heaviest security seen at the ground for many years.

Liverpool have had meetings with Special Branch and Israeli security officers since the draw was made, and a security plan has been put into place.

They are expecting a peaceful demonstration outside the stadium against the war being waged in Lebanon.

And Levy spoke of the fears of his players for their families back in Israeli ahead of the first leg saying: 'This has not been easy for the players.

'Many have moved their families to Tel Aviv for safety, but we do have some players who live in Haifa and their families are still there.

'This, as you can understand, is not an easy situation for them at the moment.'

Haifa have had to train in various places south of Haifa, and have had training camps in Holland and Austria in the build-up to the tie.

And they have seen UEFA deny them the chance of playing the second leg in Israel.

Levy said: 'UEFA told us it was best to play the second leg out of Tel Aviv, I am just the coach and do not really want to comment on that.

'We would obviously like to play in Tel Aviv, even better in Haifa. I am disappointed, all the years I have heard about English football and I hoped we could play Liverpool in our homeland.

'We are a small team, for our people, our country, it would be nice for Liverpool to come to Israel, there are a lot of Liverpool fans back home.

'In Israel we would have some chance to beat Liverpool, to give them a good fight.

'But now we have had the second game taken away from us it makes it very, very difficult. It has probably robbed us of the chance of progressing.'

He added: 'I recall when Haifa played against Valencia in the UEFA Cup three seasons ago, when Rafael Benitez was manager there, we played magnificently to draw 0-0 in Spain, but when we had to play the second leg in Holland, we lost 4-0.

'Haifa has experience in Europe, we have reached the Champions League group stages. But against Liverpool we have very little chance, we are a proud club and a proud team and we will fight hard, but all we can hope for is to play well.'