Israel coach Eli Guttman insists he has no special plans to stop Gareth Bale during Wales’ crunch Euro 2016 visit to Haifa.
Guttman dismissed the idea of using strong-arm tactics to curb the Real Madrid star and even joked that his call to Bale’s club colleague Cristiano Ronaldo on how to keep the Welshman quiet had fallen on deaf ears.
“We contacted Cristiano exactly how to do it, how to stop Bale,” Guttman said at his press conference ahead of Saturday’s Group B top-of-the-table clash at the Sammy Ofer Stadium.
“But he didn’t answer the call and it is not about one man.
“This is a team game and we do not have enough strong players to kick Bale out.
“We’re going to play the game as one unit not to give him space. This is our plan.”
Guttman created headlines all over Europe a couple of weeks ago when he questioned Bale’s form at the Bernabeu and suggested the Wales forward was “saving himself” for the Euro qualifier in Haifa.
But Bale scored both goals in Real’s next game, a 2-0 league victory over Levante, and Guttman distanced himself from those remarks on Friday when asked about the 25-year-old’s poor performance in Madrid’s Clasico defeat to Barcelona last weekend.
“I have to tell you that I must improve my humour,” Guttman said.
“After my sentence he scored two goals for Real Madrid and he held his hands to his ears.
“But he did not do it for me, he did it for the fans of Real Madrid.
“How much did they pay for him? 100 million euros? He deserves it.”
Israel and Wales have emerged as the surprise early front-runners in a group where Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina were expected to fill the two automatic qualifying spots when the draw was made.
Guttman’s side have beaten Andorra, Cyprus and Bosnia to record a perfect nine-point start while unbeaten Wales have eight points from four games and picked up a bonus point last time out when holding Belgium to a goalless draw in Brussels.
“We are surprised to be top,” said Guttman, whose side host Belgium on Tuesday in a fixture postponed last September due to the political situation in the Middle East at the time.
“If you had asked me before if we would get nine points I would say maybe seven.
“But after the performance against Bosnia it is not surprising because the group deserved it.
“I’m showing my players to be focused and concentrated only on the next game.
“I believe when you’re focused on the next game you do your job and I don’t know how many points you need to be in second or third position.
“I’m not calculating it, but every game in this league of 10 games is a big match.”
The qualifier is a sell-out and Guttman says he expects an even bigger atmosphere than the one witnessed during Israel’s 3-0 victory over Bosnia in November.
“We have 30,000 people coming and we want to send them home with a big smile on their faces,” Guttman said.
“The crowd was amazing against Bosnia and we will be expecting even better against Wales.
“We are playing as a team and there is togetherness both in and outside the field.
“You can’t underestimate players who are playing in the Premier League but we are professionals and we are ready for Wales.”
Israel captain Tal Ben Haim has declared himself fit to play after having an injection on his injured back and Omer Damari, the joint top scorer in Euro qualifying with five goals, will be the biggest goal threat to Wales.