Hapoel Tel Aviv may be without influential central defender Asi Domb for its UEFA Cup clash against Leeds United on Thursday, after the 28-year-old tore his hamstring muscle in training yesterday, just hours before boarding a flight for Yorkshire.
"I will only know the extent of the injury after we arrive in England and I try to train with the rest of the team," said Domb yesterday. "I'd like to believe it's nothing serious, but I will just have to be patient and wait until we get to Leeds."
Hapoel's medical team began work on the injury immediately, but only after the team's first training session today will coach Dror Kashtan know if he has to reshuffle his team to find a replacement for Domb.
The 22-man Hapoel squad flew out to England yesterday evening, with only goalkeeper Nir Rahamin, who underwent surgery on an injured knee, staying at home. Team bosses, including owner Moshe Teomin, will join the players in Leeds tomorrow night.
Despite the latest injury setback, Hapoel is ready for Thursday's encounter with the illustrious English club.
"We know exactly what we will be coming up against," said midfielder Yossi Abuksis yesterday. "We are expecting a similar sort of game to the two matches we played against Chelsea last season. Leeds United is a very well-prepared team that has done all its homework about us and knows exactly where our strengths lie. We know we will have to give 110 percent - in discipline, in physical commitment and in teamwork - in order to come back to Israel with a decent result. There can be no question of hoping for a draw on Thursday to take with us to the home leg, since we will be playing in Florence, not in Tel Aviv."
According to Gabor Halmai, the Hapoel players are not intimidated by the English side's pedigree and star players. "On paper, Chelsea and Parma were also better than us. We need to forget about Saturday's poor performance against Hapoel Kfar Sava and make this UEFA Cup match a continuation of last season," he said.
Halmai played a full part in yesterday's training session, after having recovered from headaches and a slight cold.
Some 500 Israeli fans are expected at Leeds' Elland Road stadium on Thursday, with an additional 1,000 members of the British Jewish community also expected to cheer on the Israeli team.
Kashtan will hold two training session today, after which he will show his players a recording of Leeds' 2-2 draw against Middlesborough in the Premier League on Saturday.
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