Gerrard injury worry dominates England practice session in build-up to Saturday's Euro qualifier.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Israel's staff and squad were brimming with confidence Tuesday afternoon on their arrival in London ahead of Saturday night's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against England at Wembley Stadium.
"We're not here on holiday, we've come to play football," assistant coach Moshe Sinai said. "Wembley may be the temple of world football and everybody is looking forward to playing there, but we've come to win."
The national team held its first training session on English soil Tuesday evening and will continue to prepare for the match at the Watford training ground.
"I'm always positive. I never think of failure," said Sinai, who revealed that he and head coach Dror Kashtan had already picked eight starters.
"The beginning of the match will be crucial because England will try to decide the encounter during the early stages of the game. If we keep a clean sheet the pressure will mount on England.
"We must respect the English, but we need to play with confidence and do our very best."
Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Tal Ben-Haim (Chelsea), Dudu Awat (Deportivo La Coruna), Roberto Colautti (Bourussia Monchengladbach), Pini Balili (Sivasspor) and Elyaniv Barda (Genk) joined the team in London for the training session.
England also stepped up its preparation on Tuesday, training for the first time at Arsenal's London Colney training complex. Steven Gerrard was among three high-profile absentees, along with Chelsea's John Terry and Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves.
The Liverpool captain has played only once since breaking a toe against Toulouse three weeks ago, but he has assured England manager Steve McClaren he will play.
England captain Terry missed the session as he was feeling under the weather. Hargreaves was restricted to gym work, limited by a tendinitis problem in his knee.
McClaren is already without Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, who have been ruled out with injury. He can at least console himself that Terry and Hargreaves are expected to return to training on Wednesday.
Gerrard worked in the gym, continuing his rehabilitation from a broken toe that forced him to miss Liverpool's last three matches and England's recent friendly loss to Germany.
With Lampard out, Gerrard's absence would be a major problem for an England team in fourth place in its seven-team qualifying group with five matches left.
Although the pair's partnership in central midfield has drawn criticism from fans because of their similarities, Lampard would likely be replaced by the more defensive Hargreaves against Israel, allowing Gerrard to attack and get into scoring positions.
"All being well, Stevie [Gerrard] will be available on Saturday," McClaren said. "I want him to play, the team do, the fans do and so does the whole country. We need big players and Stevie is one for us."
"The players England will be missing are significant members of the team," Sinai said. "However, you never know how well their replacements will play so this might not be such an advantage."
Emile Heskey took part in England training for the first time in three years on Tuesday and has a realistic chance of teaming up with Michael Owen against Israel.
"I still feel like I'm the same player as when I last played for England three years ago," Heskey told the Daily Mail. "I still believe in myself and I still believe that I'm a good player." The 29-year-old Wigan Athletic striker scored just five goals in his previous 43 appearances for the Three Lions.
"I don't feel that I've changed much as a player, but I do have more experience now," he said. "I never doubted my ability, but the longer it goes without getting a call into the squad, the more you begin to wonder whether it will happen again.
"It's been three years since I last played for England and it's a long time. I kept hoping that it would happen and it's an opportunity to show that I'm good enough," Heskey said.
"I believe that we will win the match," said Betar Jerusalem midfielder Gal Alberman, who will likely be in Israel's starting lineup on Saturday.
"I don't think we should concern ourselves with the players England will be missing. We should concentrate on our own play."
"If you would have told me a year ago that I would be playing at a sold-out Wembley I would have laughed," said Maccabi Tel Aviv defender Yuval Shpungin, who is in contention for a starting position. "We're not going to allow England to walk all over us. We're going for the win."
AP contributed to this report.
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