Maccabi Haifa defender Eyal Meshumar..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Midfielder Gili Vermouth is questionable for Israel’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Wales next Saturday due to a lingering ankle injury which has kept him out of action for the past three weeks.
Vermouth played an integral part in Israel’s perfect start to its Group B campaign, starting in all three of the national team’s qualifiers and scoring the blue-and- white’s opener in the 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in November.
Vermouth was injured in the first leg of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s State Cup quarterfinal against Ironi Kiryat Shmona last month, three weeks after completing his controversial move to the club from arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The 29-year-old hasn’t been able to return to full training since, and the national team’s medical staff wasn’t optimistic of his chances of featuring against Wales after assessing his condition on Wednesday.
Israel coach Eli Gutman held a training session with a 23-man squad in Shefayim on Wednesday, which included Maccabi Haifa striker Eliran Atar and Greens midfielder Avihai Yadin, as well as the 21 players called up for the previous week’s session.
The 23-man roster didn’t include any of the Israelis playing abroad, with around seven of them set to be named in the official squad which is expected to be announced on Friday.
Club Brugge midfielder Lior Refaelov is the favorite to replace Vermouth in the starting lineup should he fail to regain fitness.
Refaelov has been in superb form for his Belgian club in recent weeks, scoring his seventh goal in Europa League action this season in his team’s 2-1 win over Besiktas in the first leg of the last 16 last week.
Israel hosts Wales at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa on March 28 before facing Belgium at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem three days later.
Israel currently leads Group B with a perfect nine points from three matches, with Wales in second place, one point further back from four games, while favorite Belgium has five points from its first three contests.
The top two in each group qualify automatically along with the best third-place finisher, while the remaining eight thirdplace teams go into a playoff.
Wales, which hasn’t reached a major tournament since qualifying for the World Cup finals in 1958, has so far beaten Andorra and Cyprus while drawing with Bosnia and Belgium.
Wales manager Chris Coleman announced his squad for the qualifier against Israel on Wednesday. The squad includes 12 players who play their trade in the English Premier League, including Joe Allen (Liverpool) and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), as well as Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, who scored twice against Levante in Sunday’s 2-0 La Liga win, snapping a ninematch drought.