Lokomotiv Moscow, which is due to play Hapoel Tel Aviv in the third round of the UEFA Cup next Tuesday, announced yesterday that it would be arriving in Israel a day earlier than originally planned. The Russian team will land in Israel on Sunday, apparently in order to allow the players more time to acclimatize to conditions in Israel. Lokomotiv is currently in Cyprus, where it is holding a training session ahead of the clash in Tel Aviv.
Lokomotiv's departure from Moscow yesterday was delayed by half an hour, while airport staff removed blocks of ice that had accumulated on the aircraft. Four of Lokomotiv's squad were not with the other 17 who made the trip to Cyprus yesterday. Milan Obradovic and Iouri Lissitsyn made their own way to the island, while Ruslan Nigmatullin and Igor Chugainov, who were part of the Russian national team that beat Latvia 3-1 last night, will arrive tomorrow.
One player who will take no part in the double-header between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Lokomotiv is Russian international midfielder, Yuri Drozdov. Drozdov underwent surgery yesterday and will be out of action for several months. Belarussian international defender Valeri Laverik will also miss at least the first leg of the clash, but may recover from a groin strain in time to play in the second leg.
Lokomotiv head coach, Yuri Semin, confirmed yesterday that the second leg would not be moved away from his team's home stadium in Remanskaya, partly because of that ground's undersoil heating and partly because UEFA did not approve the alternative stadium in Vladikavkaz. Semin's assistant, Vladimir Estrakov, told reporters he would examine the tapes of Hapoel's two games against Chelsea, as well as the Tel Aviv derby.
"Physically, Hapoel is ready for this game," he said. "They are motivated and they keep their shape during the course of their games." Estrakov also singled out Milan Osterc and Sergei Kleschenko as Hapoel's most dangerous players.
Marat Izmailov, the 19-year-old star of Lokomotiv, said yesterday that he was sorry to have missed his national team's game yesterday, but fully understood Semin's decision not to release him for the match.
"I don't know much about Hapoel," said Izmailov, "but if they beat Chelsea, I am sure they're a dangerous opponent."
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