Israel ready to step up, says Guttman


Eli Guttman has urged his players to show their quality ahead of a crucial qualifying double-header that could seal Israel’s World Cup fate.

With four games to play in Group F, third-placed Israel host Azerbaijan on Saturday before travelling to Russia on Tuesday. They start the latest round of matches a point behind Russia and three points behind Portugal, but with a game in hand.

"These are the two most important games we have had to play,’ said Guttman.

"The players know what they must do. We believe in ourselves and are united in our determination."

Key players Tomer Hemed, Eden Ben-Bassat, Beram Kayal, Yuval Shpungin, Maor Melikson and Rami Gershon miss out through injury, along with captain Yossi Benayoun who is short of match fitness. Guttman said: “I’ve told Yossi he will be back in the team when he finds a club."

The injuries could open the way for former Swansea striker Itay Shechter, who has returned to Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Elyaniv Barda who has rejoined to Hapoel Beer Sheva.

Probable Israel starting XI against Azerbaijan: Dudu Awat (capt), Tal Ben Haim, Eitan Tibi, Dekel Keinan, Shir Zedek, Nir Biton, Bibers Natcho, Lior Refaelov, Eran Zehavi, Elyaniv Barda, Itay Shechter

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