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Taking a step back and going forward

Rami Gershon Israel central defender

That’s what Israel needs to do now as they prepare for a quick turnaround match with the world’s 4th best National team according to FIFA, Belgium. Coach Eli Gutman needs to take a good hard look at what needs to be done in order to capture one point and come away with at worst a draw against Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Thibault Courtois & company. Gutman and the players will need to dig their heels deep into the Teddy Stadium pitch in Jerusalem in order to salvage this two game home stand for the Blue & White.

There had already been some talk before the Wales match that Gutman would send out a much more defensive side to face the Belgians regardless of the result against Real Madrid star Gareth Bale. However, now with Israel losing their first match in Euro 2016 qualifying they will need to throw everything including the kitchen sink in order to stay in the top two teams in their group which would lead to automatic qualification for the tournament.

With Eitan Tibi out due to a red card collected in the Wales match, Gutman will be forced to play Belgium league star defender Rami Gershon of Gent as a central defender. At practice Monday night Gershon was off to the side already preparing for the Belgium match indicating that he will most certainly get the job. Can he get the job done? There is no reason why he shouldn’t as he has been week in and week out one of the steadiest defenders in the Jupiler League. He also did a terrific job against Portugal back a couple of years ago and even headed in a goal off a set piece corner kick, when was the last time Israel had done that!

Gershon said that they Israel will come to the match with Belgium ready to go. The Belgium players may be more physical but Israel will come with their heart and soul to the match. That’s what you want to hear from Gershon. Positive attitude and wanting to do the maximum. What more could Israel ask for from Gershon?

With Gershon teamed up with captain Tal Ben Haim, who was not at practice Monday night, Gutman will look at Omri Ben Harush to step in at left back as he did against Wales and Orel Degani on the right, who played admirably when Bale was steaming down his side of the pitch.

The major changes will be in the midfield and offensive formation for Israel. Nir Bitton if healthy as he trained at the team hotel Monday night and Bibras Natcho should get the starting nod shoring up the midfield. The wildcard may be Brighton property Beram Kayal who also saw some personal training time after much of the press had left. Kayal also said that he hopes to start against Belgium when asked Monday morning while still in Haifa.

Sheran Yeini who worked like a horse in the Wales match may sit this one out, but not for the lack of effort. Just a hunch that Gutman will leave him out of the starting XI and bring in Kayal who has played in Scotland for Celtic and England in the recent past.

Up front we may see a trio of Tomer Hemed, Ben Sahar and Lior Refaelov, leaving Eran Zahavi on the bench, though that may not be Gutman’s plans as he said specifically that when he took Zahavi off for Ben Sahar it was to rest him as the Wakes game was already lost. Though Refaelov did not have the best performance he could have asked for his experience in the Belgium league may be invaluable against this side.

Ofir Marchiano will start in goal as coach Gutman had already indicated at the post match press conference, deciding not to change the man between the pipes in favor of Guy Haimov or Ariel Harush. The pity of this is, is the fact that Haimov should have started against Wales and not Marchiano who has been in poor form ever since his shutout against Bosnia back in November.

Playing the lineup game is always entertaining and a fun activity just like heading to the beach or on a trip. For Gutman the choices he makes for Tuesday’s match with Belgium may be the difference of a trip to the Euro 2016 tournament or a trip to the sores of Tel Aviv next summer.