CELTIC FACE HUGE TEST IN UCL PLAYOFF

Scottish champions Celtic are going to face a huge competition for a spot in the UEFA Champions League when they take on Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

The desert of Negev has waited four decades to win the champsionship in May, with their last try back in 1976. The city is barely 100 kilometres south of the country’s capital, living in the shadows of the capital. They won the cup in 1997 under the guidance of Eli Guttman but they are known for their 12-0 humiliating loss in Europe to Barcelona in 1994. After that win in 1997, they played in the Cup Winners' Cup against Roda but lost 10-0. That season the outfit ended up being relegated from the top flight football.

Be'er Sheva has struggled to recover from the blow since their poor showing in Europe. The relegation left 18 year old graduate of their academy Yossi Benayoun hanging. Bernayoun started at career with Dutch giant Ajax before returning home to play for Be'er Sheva. Eventually, he moved to Maccabi Haifa, then to Racing before moving to England. He remains Israel best ever player still. Be'er Sheva returning to Europe would want to prove their worth so Celtic won’t have it easy.

The club has a female, Alona Barkat as its owner. She didn’t have the knowledge required initially and almost sold it but has grown to be a strong leader aiming very high. Also, while Bernayoun didn’t rejoin his boyhood club, Elyaniv Barda returned after six good years in Belgium. The club’s home ground is a fortress and they remain unbeaten. The coach at the helms isn’t one Celtic can take lightly as they are not in the league of Astana who even posed a little problem in the previous round. They defeated Olympiakos in the previous round and are keen on playing in Europe, so Celtic better prepare hard.

Yossi Benayoun is expected to make his switch to Maccabi Tel Aviv before the end of this week

The 36-year-old is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Israeli club. The move has been talked about a lot in recent weeks. Despite having agreed personal terms and undergone a medical with Maccabi Tel Aviv,Benayoun’s move was put on hold due to various reasons. The Israeli club were hoping to appoint a new manager before the arrival of the former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder.Benayoun has been at Maccabi Haifa for the last two seasons, but he left the club in difficult circumstances.

Even though he was a key figure in helping the club win their first title after a gap of five years while also being successful in the State Cup after five years, he was told to leave the club back in September.Benayoun reportedly fell out with owner Jacob Shachar. Unhappy with his treatment, the midfielder announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season. He has followed up by talking with Maccabi Tel Aviv to make them as his new home. Talks have progressed as expected and the move is expected to be concluded before the end of this week.

“I came to Haifa with the intention of ending my career here, but things change in soccer. There is no other player in Israel who would have coped with what I coped with this season,” said the midfielder after helping Maccabi Haifa win the cup final. Benayoun was a major fan favourite at the club as he represented them from 1998 to 2002 before moving onto European football with the likes of Racing Santander. His big break came with West Ham and subsequent spells at the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea were also successful.

YOSSI BERNAYOUN COMPLETES MOVE FROM HAIFA TO MACCABI TEL AVIV

Yossi Benayoun completes his move to Maccabi Tel Aviv after his performance for Haifa in the last campaign.

The 36-year-old midfielder to sign a one-year deal with the yellow-and-blue, after passing the medical with the Israeli club.

The Liverpool legend spent the last two seasons at Maccabi Haifa and has helped the club to their first title in five years and first State Cup in 18 years. However, Benayoun left the club in a bitter way after revealing that Haifa had asked him to leave last September following the side’s poor start to the season and the subsequent unrest in the dressing room.

The player claimed it was the club owner Jacob Shachar who asked him to go, but after speaking with coach Roni Levy the two came to an agreement that if either one were forced to leave the club the other would follow suit. Benayoun said the club treated him poorly and that informed his decision to leave. He said he already told the club since February that he was going to leave during the summer. He even told them the likely choice. After the cup final, he said:

“I came to Haifa with the intention of ending my career here, but things change in soccer. There is no other player in Israel who would have coped with what I coped with this season.”

Benayoun returned to his country after spending over a decade in Europe where he played for several clubs including West Ham United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal and others. Benayoun will likely replace outgoing striker Eran Zahavi, who has received a massive offer from Guangzhou of the Chinese league. Zahavi led the Premier League in scoring in each of the past three seasons and is likely going to agree to the big money move to China.

CHELSEA WARY OF BUYING MORE BENAYOUNS

English Premier League outfit Chelsea FC are wary of acquiring another player from Liverpool to avoid it going the way of past buys in the past.

Chelsea’s purchase of some former Reds players like Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles and Yossi Bernayoun have not been exactly nice, hence the hesitation and concerns arising.

Chelsea have been linked with Liverpool striker Christian Benteke and it seems German Jurgen Klopp is open to the idea of letting the player go this summer. Klopp has favoured starting Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino ahead of Benteke that was only acquired last summer. The player is believed to be okay with leaving since he was not getting enough play time at Anfield.

Chelsea are having difficulty agreeing the transfer of Everton forward Romelu Lukaku due to the huge transfer price slammed on the Belgian. The Times report that The Blues are looking at easily acquiring out-of-favour Benteke for a lower fee, though that's not looking especially likely - the current StanJames odds of Lukaku moving are just 2/1, with him Evens to stay.

It would make sense for The Reds to cut him loose as they try to cut their losses after signing Benteke for 32.5 million Pounds in the last campaign under Brendan Rodgers. Benteke netted 10 times this season in all competitions but Liverpool wanted more from the player as the talented player was averaging one goal every two games for Aston Villa prior to his move.

Chelsea are wary of the transfer after past purchases didn’t live up to the mark, especially as they have little issues like Benteke seems to be having. Torres joined in 2010 in a big money move but didn’t quite live up to expectations. Meireles joined in 2011 after just a year and it didn’t go down well at Stamford Bridge. Bernayoun, 36, who just helped Maccabi Haifa to Israeli FA cup glory, joined Chelsea in 2010 but couldn’t leave up to the hype.

YOSSI BENAYOUN FEATURES IN NOBLE’S TESTIMONIAL

Israeli born player, Yossi Benayoun played in the testimonial match of Mark Noble.

The right-wing midfielder played for West Ham in the 2012/2013 season while on loan from Chelsea FC. As West Ham move to the newly built Olympic stadium, they have had a splendid season that serves as a send-off.

They are in sixth position in the top flight league and are in contention for UEFA Champions league spot. The Hammers are also still in the FA Cup with a replay against Manchester United on Wednesday. The club celebrated Mark Noble’s testimonial in a great way recently.

The testimonial saw many past players return to the Boleyn ground. Israeli winger, Yossi Benayoun also returned to pay testament to the club captain at the event.

Yossi joined West Ham in 2005 and impressed in two seasons before his joining The Reds for 5.48 million Pounds. He returned to the squad in 2012 but currently plies his trade with Maccabi Haifa.
He played during the testimonial and commented on how the West Ham fans deserved a move to a bigger stadium.
“I had a good two years with West Ham and I had a good relationship with the supporters. The Boleyn Ground is a special ground and it’s also nice to see the Club having a great season in the last year. They are great fans here so I think they deserve a bigger stadium because they can fill any stadium. I wish them all the best in the future,” Yossi Benayoun said as shown on the club’s website.

Despite his spell at other English teams during the span of his career, Benayoun remains something of a cult hero at West Ham.

In the international scene, the player has been recalled to the Israeli national team where he achieved a record 97th cap for his country.

Yossi Benayoun

Yossi Benayoun was born in Israel on May 5 1980 and began his professional football career with Hapoel Be’er Sheva also in his native country.

After a short stint at Maccabi Haifa also of Israel, Benayoun moved to Racing de Santander of Spain from where he later moved to the English Premier League when West Ham came calling.

In 2010, the midfielder signed for Chelsea after spending a short time with Liverpool before being loaned out to Arsenal and later back to West Ham.

He however, returned to Maccabi Haifa of Israel after spending a season in the lower tier of the English league with Queens Park Rangers.

With 97 caps to his credit, the former West Ham player is his country’s most capped international.

Benayoun stirred up controversy when he decided to choose Liverpool over West Ham United after verbally agreeing to a new four-year deal in May 2007. The controversy which trailed his decision to sign for Liverpool in 2007 was further heightened when a newspaper publication reported that Benayoun’s Liverpool contract offer was less than what West Ham offered him.

This, however, didn’t stop the Kops from announcing the deal as the player was later unveiled as a Liverpool player in the middle of July after completing a deal worth £5 million.

After spending just one season at Queens Park Rangers in 2013, Benayoun returned to Maccabi Haifa in Israel. He signed a two-year deal reportedly worth the sum of $1 million. After his retirement, the former West Ham, Liverpool, and Queens Park Rangers player was made the Sporting Director of Maccabi Haifa.

On the international front, the midfielder made his senior debut for Israel against Portugal in an international friendly in 1988. In 2008, Yossi Benayoun was made the captain of his country national team. He remains one of the most decorated players his country has ever had.

Yossi Benayouncould be one of the names playing in the Australian A-League

Former Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayouncould be one of the names playing in the Australian A-League if reports are to be believed.

The player, along with two other popular European names, have expressed their interest in playing for an Australian league club in the near future. The A-League is an attractive prospect for footballers at the final few years of their careers. It also represents a great option for those who are unable to secure moves to the MLS or the Middle East. The A-League recently expressed the need to sign popular names in order to boost the profile of the league.

Compared with the upcoming leagues like the MLS, the A-League spends significantly less on ageing former players. This means that the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, and many other popular Premier League stars chose to go for MLS clubs or the Indian Super League. The A-League could have been an attractive proposition for players like Malouda as well.Benayoun, though, remains keen on this aspect according to the player’s agent.Benayoun is a well-known face for Premier League fans after having represented Liverpool from 2007 to 2010. He then moved to Chelsea where he played for a couple of years as a high-profile substitute.

However, his best time in the English league game while playing for West Ham when he helped the club stay up in the division against all odds. “The A League and Australia is a very attractive offer to many coaches and players, the lifestyle is very appealing, we hope to be able to help grow the game in an emerging market as well for the good of all football,” said Spanish agent Gustavo Crnko. Apart from the Israeli star, who currently plays for Maccabi Haifa, he also represents the likes of John Utaka and David Navarro.

Australian top flight Football is starting to lure some really good players

The Australian top flight Football is starting to lure some really good players especially the veterans.

The 37-year old Luis Garcia recently joined Central Coast Mariners and a couple of other veterans might also be on the plane to Australia soon.

John Utaka, who is without a club at the moment, and Yossi Benayoun, who is playing in his homeland Israel, both are believed to be interested in the offers from the Australian league.

Gustavo Crnko is the representative of these two players in the market and in one of his latest interviews; he did drop hints that he was busy negotiating deals for his clients in Australia.

According to Crnko, the way of living in Australia is quite appealing and that’s why, a lot of managers as well as the players are showing interest in pursuing their careers over there.

In the words of Crnko, “The no. of professionals getting attracted to A-League is increasing fast, be it players or managers, they want to go there. The reason, I believe, is that Australian lifestyle is quite fascinating.”

“If we manage to contribute in the development of Football in that part of the world, we would be happy and it would be great for the overall sake of the game as well.”

Crnko actually represents many Football professionals and he did not take any particular name in his interview.

So, it was a bit unclear which managers and players he was talking about, but, some of the other reports suggest that it’s Benayoun and Utaka who have been approached by the Australian clubs.

As far as Benayoun is concerned, he was believed to finish his career at Maccabi Haifa only and take up an administrative role at the club thereafter, but, he appears to have changed his mind now.

Steven Gerrard showed his class and skills in a 45 minute Appearance

Former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard showed his class and skills in a 45 minute appearance against Club America. This was his debut for LA Galaxy after having recently completed the transfer from Liverpool.

The presence of Gerrard in the team was expected to significantly improve results and this has been the case after the 35-year-old helped LA Galaxy grab a 2-1 victory. Coach Bruce Arena said after the game that it was apparent for the fans witnessing the game that Gerrard was a significant step above the rest of the players. He expects more from the 35-year-old in the coming matches.

It has so far been a disappointing season for LA Galaxy, as they find themselves only in the fifth spot. Even though they are only one point away from table leaders Seattle Sounders, it would take a lot of consistent form in order to see them regain the top spot since there are a number of teams like FC Dallas who have played less number of matches than Galaxy. The match against Club America was merely a friendly encounter in the International Champions Cup. More important tests with the club in the coming weeks when they take on Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo.

“Steven played well - his passing was very good and his partnership with Juninho was good. He won some tackles and help create some chances. He also could have had a goal but the goalkeeper made a great save, so it was very encouraging. He looked like he belonged and his leadership was really good.He is probably about a month away from being fit enough to play a full match. It will take some games. It doesn't come from training, he will have to play some matches,” said underfire coach Bruce Arena about his new signing.

Mario Balotelli last Goal sealed Livepool Victory

A late goal from Mario Balotelli sealed Liverpool’s victory when they played against Tottenham Hotspur in Anfield as each team faced off in a Premier League match that was intense and thrilling from the start till the very end.

This result was a devastating one for Tottenham as they had come from behind on 2 different occasions and with only a few minutes left on the clock; Mario Balotelli emerged at the 83rd minute to score the winning goal for Liverpool as he scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool since joining the English team.

Mauricio Pochettino left Anfield with a bittersweet taste as he watched his squad giving it everything they had on the pitch and playing at a high level but it wasn’t enough for Tottenham to claim a single point and the Argentinean manager was disappointed in this outcome which does not benefit the team in their race for the top spots of the Premier League.

"It's very disappointing because I think it was a great game, disappointing in the end at 2-2 and I think both teams deserved to take a point.I think in the first half we made some mistakes, but in the end we produced a very good performance and it's a shame." Mauricio Pochettino told the media.

However, even with this negative result there still are some good things to point out for Tottenham Hotspur and especially Mauricio Pochettino as the manager is creating a squad for the future with his faith and belief in young players as well rock hard training regimens.

Back when Pochettino was the manager of the Southampton squad, he made his players walk barefoot across burning coals during just one of his many tough boot camps training and things haven’t changed much for him even though he is in charge of a different club now in the White Hart Lane Stadium.

Harry Kane is currently the top goal-scorer of Tottenham Hotspur and he has stated that the training sessions of his team are basically mind over body as the pain that the players have to experience puts them into a new level not only physically but also mentally and this has helped the squad in going through matches with a high pace and intensity from start till the very end.

Kane said: “I think it has changed. We’ve been behind a lot in games this season but we’ve shown great character, stuck to our game plan and dug deep even in the final minutes and showed that again. We’ve made this a tough place to come.”

Sealing a Champions League spot is one of the objectives of Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur in this season but even if they don’t accomplish it, the future is starting to look bright for the club with a manager who arrived to the Premier League 2 years ago and is already making a huge impact not only in his club but outside of it as well.

Michael Essien

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