In­juries will not dis­rupt our Euro­pean dream, says Guttman

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BY SI­MON GRIVER

FOOTBALL ELI Guttman is con­fi­dent Is­rael can over­come an in­jury cri­sis and qual­ify for the Euro 2016 fi­nals play-offs ahead of their dou­ble­header show-down against Cyprus and Bel­gium.

Is­rael host Cyprus on Satur­day night in Jerusalem be­fore fin­ish­ing their Group B cam­paign in Bel­gium on Tues­day. The top two au­to­matic qual­i­fy­ing berths in Group B are still math­e­mat­i­cally pos­si­ble but ei­ther Wales or Bel­gium, who both play An­dorra, will need to drop points.

Is­rael look well-placed to fin­ish third and claim the play-off spot for next sum­mer’s fi­nals in France, although Bos­nia, two points be­hind in fourth, and Cyprus, four points be­hind in fifth, can still catch them.

Is­rael boss Eli Guttman con­cedes that only a vic­tory against Cyprus will suf­fice. “In­juries are part of football,” he said. “As a man­ager you are al­ways fac­ing the mo­ment of truth and this time it is Cyprus. “They are a te­na­cious team and dif­fi­cult to play against. They can still qual­ify and they won’t give up easily.”

Is­rael’s cause will not be helped by in­juries to some key play­ers in­clud­ing CSKA Moscow midfielder Bi­bras Natcho. An ever-present in the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, he suf­fered a con­cus­sion on club duty.

Midfielder Beram Kayal, who is in fine form with Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Brighton, will step in to the hold­ing mid­field po­si­tion, but Seag­ulls team­mate Tomer Hemed is likely to start on the bench. Also in­jured are Sheran Yeini, Lior Re­faelov, Ben Sahar, Rami Ger­shon and Maor Buza­glo, but top­scorer Omer Da­mari re­turns.

Guttman re­fused to spec­u­late on whether Is­rael would fin­ish third. “The only thing that in­ter­ests me is beat­ing Cyprus and pre­par­ing for the match. We’ll save the cal­cu­la­tions for later.”

But Is­raeli eyes will also be on Bos­nia’s match at home to Wales on Satur­day. Is­rael would fin­ish above Bos­nia if they achieve the same num­ber of points be­cause of their bet­ter head-to- head record. So if Is­rael can beat the Cypri­ots and Bos­nia fail to beat Wales, Is­rael will fin­ish third re­gard­less of the last round of matches.

Is­rael’s ex­pected start­ing XI:

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