(photo credit: AP)
It's only the second weekend of the English Premier League season, but the two Israelis playing in England will already do battle on Sunday when Yossi Benayoun's Liverpool hosts Chelsea and Tal Ben-Haim at Anfield.
Both Benayoun and Ben-Haim have made much more of an impact on their teams than had been expected when the pair made their move from middle-ranked Premiership clubs to two of the most prominent teams in Europe.
When Ben-Haim's move from Bolton and Benayoun's from West Ham were announced during the summer most pundits predicted they would generally be used as substitutes, rather than break into the first eleven.
However, things have begun a lot brighter for both Israelis in the lead up to Sunday's crucial clash.
After impressing critics in the UK with his performances in preseason friendlies Benayoun did not even feature in Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's squad for the opening day win over Aston Villa last Saturday.
But on Wednesday the midfielder was included in the starting team for the Reds 1-0 win over Toulouse in the Champions League and is expected to keep his place on the right wing for his Anfield debut.
Ben-Haim also looked solid for his club during the preseason and Chelsea's opening games in the Premier League, pairing Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho in the center of defense.
It was thought his place in Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho's starting lineup would be under threat on Sunday as England captain John Terry has been included in the squad for the Liverpool game.
However Carvalho is suffering from a thigh problem and will likely miss the match, allowing Ben-Haim to continue in the first eleven.
One other Israeli who will be involved in Sunday's game will be former Israel national team coach Avraham Grant, who was appointed Chelsea's director of football over the summer.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will play Chelsea on Sunday with a hairline toe fracture and then miss England's friendly against Germany three days later.
Benitez said the midfielder will face the Blues with a painkilling injection in his right foot, but he will then rest for at least a week, to miss Wednesday's international at Wembley.
"Steven has a hairline fracture in his toe," Benitez said. "The injury is not really serious, but is something we need to be careful with. He will have an injection so he can play without pain. I have talked to Steven and the doctor, and it is not a big risk.
"Afterwards he will have a rest, maybe one or two weeks. It will stop him joining up with England. I will talk to [England coach] Steve McClaren, but I am sure he will understand," he said.
Benitez argues that Liverpool needs Gerrard more for a difficult Premier League game against Chelsea than England requires him for a friendly.
"If he trains and plays more games after [Chelsea] it will be a bigger risk," Benitez said. "We know you cannot push a player too much. For one game it is OK, for more it is a risk. He will want to play every game, every minute. He will want to play against Chelsea."
Liverpool, which has won Champions League and FA Cup titles under Benitez, is focusing on the Premier League this season. Although the Reds hold the English record of 18 league titles, its last one was back in 1990 before the Premier League had started.
After opening its league campaign with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa and then winning 1-0 at Toulouse in a Champions League qualifier, there is confidence the Reds can beat Chelsea at Anfield.
"It is a really important game," Benitez said. "We are at home and we want to continue our good start against them, because they are a really top side. If you can beat a top side things get much better.
"Our away results and those against top sides were not so good last season, and we know we have to improve," he said.
If we can beat Chelsea it will be a boost for everybody. We have confidence we can win and we hope we will do."
Benitez is set to rotate his starting lineup again, recalling forwards Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt and dropping Peter Crouch and Andriy Voronin. Crouch set up Voronin's winner in Toulouse.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is likely to stick with Didier Drogba as his lone striker with Florent Malouda and Shaun Wright-Phillips supporting on the wings as he seeks to make it three wins in a row.
The Blues came from behind to beat Birmingham and Reading while missing John Terry, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole. Mourinho is now hoping that defender Ricardo Carvalho and midfielder Michael Essien will recovers from injuries to face the Reds.
There is another high-profile match on Sunday.
Manchester City, which has won both its games under Sven-Goran Eriksson, plays city rival Man United. The Red Devils have drawn both of their games - against Reading and Portsmouth - and will be without the injured Wayne Rooney and suspended Cristiano Ronaldo.
Also Sunday, Blackburn hosts Arsenal in a meeting of two clubs which have both won their first league games as well as matches in Europe.
The Gunners followed up a 2-1 victory over Fulham with a 2-0 win at Sparta Prague in a Champions League qualifier. Rovers won 2-1 at Middlesbrough in the Premier League and then 1-0 at Finland's MyPa in the UEFA Cup.
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