Yossi Benayoun has been ruled out of Israel’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers against Croatia and Greece after scans revealed he requires surgery on an Achilles injury.
The Chelsea star is set to be out of action for several months and joins Celtic midfielder Berem Kayal on missing the upcoming fixtures.
Benayoun sustained a calf injury in last month’s Carling Cup defeat by Newcastle but had made encouraging progress after undergoing placenta treatment in Serbia.
But the Israel captain will now be forced to watch from the sidelines when his side face Croatia on Saturday and Greece on Tuesday night.
“This could not have happened at a worse time,” said Benayoun. “I’m at a new club and I’m missing two of Israel’s most important matches.”
Celtic star Kayal will miss the game with a hernia problem and adds to the problems of coach Luis Fernandez.
Fernandez, who has come under fire in the past week for spending last weekend on holiday in Paris has endured a frosty relationship with the Israeli media in recent months.
But the Frenchman is hoping his side can maintain their encouraging start to life in Group F, where they have taken four points from their opening two games.
West Ham’s Tal Ben Haim and Blackpool’s Dekel Keinan are both set to feature, while Fernandez is also expected to recall Genk’s Elyaniv Barda in attack following the striker’s run of three goals in his past four games
Goalkeeper Dudu Awat will skipper the side in Benayoun’s absence and the Mallorca star is confident Israel can cope without their star midfielder.
“We are not just one player,” said Awat. “We are a team and each player depends on the other. Croatia will be a difficult game but we can win.”
Expected line-up: Dudu Awat (Real Mallorca capt.), Tal Ben Haim (West Ham), Dekel Keinan (Blackpool), Danny Bondvar (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Yoav Ziv (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Bibers Natcho (Ruben Kazan), Tamir Cohen (Bolton), Gili Vermouth (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Eyal Golasa (Maccabi Haifa), Elyaniv Barda (Genk), Itay Shechter (Hapoel Tel Aviv).