Hapoel Tel Aviv must climb a mountain if it is to keep Israel's flag flying in Europe, according to club chairman Moshe Teomim.
Hapoel, the only remaining Israeli representative in European competition, takes on Lokomotiv Moscow of Russia tonight in its UEFA Cup third round, first leg tie at Bloomfield (kickoff 7 P.M., live on Channel 1).
"If beating Chelsea was like crossing an ocean, then overcoming Lokomotiv will be like climbing Everest - both high and cold," Teomim said yesterday as he summed up in a sentence the enormity of the task which lies ahead for his players.
But while the Russians will be tough - they are probably equally as good as Chelsea, if not better - Teomim hopes that the one advantage which the home team has will be utilized to the full. "Our players have the advantage of playing with a tail wind in the shape of the fantastic crowd support they will receive, and this is a huge advantage," he said.
As of yesterday, only Istvan Pishont was already ruled out of the game through injury, and it is certain he will not take the field tonight.
The doubts over Yossi Abuksis appear to have subsided somewhat and he held a full training session yesterday.
The other players carrying injuries were also getting back to fitness as Gabor Helmei, Assi Domb and Shimon Gershon all participated in Dror Kashtan's final training session before the game.
In a mainly tactical workout for the players, Kashtan concentrated on Lokomotiv's weak points and if there are no major surprises, he will field the following lineup: Elimelech, Bachar, Gershon, Domb, Antebi, Onishenko, Abuksis, Helmei, Toamah, Clescenko and Ostrec.
Before playing against Chelsea, defender Yigal Antebi said that the English team did not have three legs, nor two heads, they were players just like Hapoel's and the chances were equal. This time he has kept a similar approach. "What I said last time holds true this time as well. We know we can expect a very tough match against a team that has played in the Champions League. Our aim must be not to concede a goal and to try and score as many as possible," he said.
Lokomotiv coach Yuri Semin has brought with him a quiet, self-confident outfit which is also the last Russian side in European club competition.
The league runners-up, who completed their season less than two weeks ago, have said quite clearly that their aim is to get a result here which will suffice for them to advance to the last-16 of the competition in the return leg in Romanskoya, near Moscow, in two weeks' time.
Semin said yesterday that he does not expect the absence of full back Igor Chugianov to have an effect and explained that the team is based not only on individual skills, but mainly on a strict tactical approach.
The Russians' starting lineup for the match is expected to be: Nigmatulin, Ignshevitz, Obradovic, Senenikov, Chervchenko, Lakahta, Maminov, Luskov, Izmailov, Fimenov and Boznikin.
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