InterToto Cup: Sakhnin faces uphill battle in Spain

After perfume-stealing controversy, Israeli team must overcome 2-1 deficit vs La Coruna.

bnei sakhnin in goal 88 (photo credit: )
bnei sakhnin in goal 88
(photo credit: )
Bnei Sakhnin will try to put controversy behind it on Saturday when it plays Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor Stadium in the second leg of the Intertoto Cup third round. Seven Bnei Sakhnin players were detained and questioned at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday over suspicions that they had attempted to steal perfume from a duty free shop ahead of their flight to Spain. The players will face further questioning when they return to Israel, but for the moment they will be focusing on Saturday's match, hoping to erase the 2-1 deficit from the first leg. The two away goals scored by Angel Lafita and Riki at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium last week mean Sakhnin face a mammoth task on Saturday, even without the unwelcome distraction. "It will be very tough, but everybody saw we were the better team in the first leg. We believe we can get the better of Deportivo," said Abed Rabbah. Rabbah was the highest profile player to be detained on Wednesday. "At the beginning I couldn't understand why we were arrested," Rabbah told Army Radio. "Later on I understood that they found perfume in one of the players' bags and the security assumed that everyone from Sakhnin stole. They're only making a big deal out of this because we're well known." Coach Freddy David will have the difficult task of getting his players focused on Saturday, but he believes the team has nevertheless got a chance to progress to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup. "A lot of teams don't take this competition seriously but we are. We all know how strong Deportivo is, but we're not going to Spain for a holiday," David said. "We will attack from the start and will be focused on playing good soccer." Barry to captain Villa in Intertoto Cup The chances of Gareth Barry joining Liverpool appeared to diminish Thursday when Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill said he was likely to start the midfielder in an Intertoto Cup match at the weekend. Barry has been linked with a move to Liverpool for more than two months and has even said publicly that he'd like to move, but Villa is reluctant to let him go and O'Neill now appears to be including the player in his plans for the coming season. Villa has turned down two offers from Liverpool, which has so far failed to respond with an increased bid. Villa is rumored to be holding out for £18 million. "We haven't heard back from Liverpool for some time and we're not exactly sure where we all stand," O'Neill said. "It's a long-running saga and I wouldn't mind it ending one way or another. "My preference - and hopefully I'm speaking for a lot of Villa fans, if not all of them - is that we would like Gareth to stay at the football club. That would be great because it will be hard to replace him." Barry was initially jeered during a preseason friendly at Walsall on Tuesday - his first appearance in a Villa shirt since saying he wanted to leave - but was clapped warmly when he was substituted in the second half. Liverpool is apparently trying to sell Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso to raise funds to buy Barry, but is also trying to acquire Ireland captain Robbie Keane from Tottenham. "We're not sure where Liverpool stand now," O'Neill said. "It was never mentioned before about them needing to sell some players before they bought. That was never in the system at all. But seemingly it must be part of it." Villa plays Odense on Saturday as it chases a place in the more prestigious UEFA Cup. "If he's mentally tuned in and he wants to go and play, why not?" O'Neill said. "Why shouldn't he be in contention for the game? He's a quality player and that's what we're looking for." AP contributed to this report.