Hapoel Tel Aviv travel to Russia for next Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 clash with Rubin Kazan confident of achieving a result.
Hapoel manager Eli Guttman said: “This is a very tough game against a team who beat Barcelona in the Champions League. That says it all. But I believe we can get at least a draw and return to Bloomfield with a good chance of progressing.”
Despite previously being informed that the match had been switched to southern Russia, Uefa has now told the Israelis that the game will go ahead in Kazan where temperatures of -10C are expected.
Extra security will be laid on for the Israelis in Kazan which is in the Muslim province of Tatarstan.
The timing of the tie could be to Hapoel’s advantage because the Russian League is on its long winter break and last season’s champions Kazan have not played a competitive match for two months.
Hapoel expect to be at full strength with Dutch midfielder Daniel De Ridder, on loan from Wigan, expected to recover from a muscle strain.
Kazan’s hopes of signing Hapoel midfielder Bibers Natcho, an Israeli international midfielder of Circassian Muslim origin, for 1 million Euros. The deal will not go through until the beginning of March so Natcho will line up for Hapoel against Kazan.
The Russians also made an offer for Hapoel’s Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama but the Israelis are keen to wait until after the World Cup in the hope that his performances in South Africa will boost his value.
The second leg against Kazan will be on February 25 in Tel Aviv. The winners facing Villareal or Wolfsburg.
Another Israeli looking to do well in the competition is Ronny Levy. Recently appointed manager of Unirea Urziceni, he will take his troops Anfield to meet Liverpool. Looking ahead to the tie, Levy said: “I know Liverpool well. As manager of Maccabi Haifa we nearly beat them in a Champions League qualifier in 2006. They can be beaten.”