For a fifth year in a row, Israel’s Fed Cup team is aiming to leave behind Europe/Africa Zone Group I. The national team opens its Pool C account in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday when it faces Ukraine.

Israel hosted the Zone Group I matches in Eilat for the past three years, but even on homecourt still failed to return to the World Group II playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The blue-and-white also faces Austria on Thursday and Slovenia on Saturday in Pool C, with each tie to consist of a singles match between each of the countries’ top players and another singles showdown between the respective No. 2’s ahead of a potentially decisive doubles encounter.

Only the winner of the pool will be drawn to play-off against the winner of Pool C or Pool D to determine which nation progresses to the World Group II playoffs in April.

The bottom-placed nation will also contest a playoff, the loser of which will be relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2015.

Shahar Pe’er, ranked No. 86 in the world, and Julia Glushko (90th) are expected to play in the singles and the doubles, with Keren Shlomo (577th) and Ofri Lankri (unranked) also on captain Amos Mansdorf’s squad.

The Ukraine team is led by world No. 39 Elina Svitolina, and also includes Nadiya Kichenok (103rd), Olga Savchuk (175th) and Lyudmyla Kichenok (200th).

“It is tough to tell in what form we are entering this tie as Shahar has just come back from an injury and only had a very short time to prepare for this year,” Mansdorf said.

“Julia is looking great in training and we are just hoping that Shahar will feel good.”

Pe’er and Glushko’s results so far this year don’t inspire much confidence. Pe’er has lost in the first round in three of the four tournaments she has played so far this season, while Glushko has claimed just one win in the three events in which she has participated.

Nevertheless, Mansdorf insisted he has high expectations.

“Our goal is to advance to the next stage,” he said. “We really want to do it, but we must remember that in order to progress from this pool we will have to defeat some very strong sides. I believe we can do it, but it won’t be simple.”

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