GUTTMAN

Israel coach Eli Guttman (left)

A spat between manager Eli Guttman and Maccabi Haifa striker Eliran Atarhas has overshadowed Israel’s preparations for their crucial Euro 2016 qualifers against Wales and Belgium.

With the Israelis going into the two matches – against Wales on Saturday night and Belgium on Tuesday – top of Group B having won their opening three matches, Atar, who’s scored five goals for Haifa since joining them in January, was the key absentee from Guttman’s 25-man squad which held its first full training session on Monday.

Reports in Israel of a conversation between the two stated Gutman was unhappy with Atar’s attitude, which resulted in him being omitted from the squad. Releasing a statement, Atar said: “It is important to me that everyone knows that I will not agree to be called unprofessional. I expected Eli Guttman to be fair and honest enough with me in our conversation and tell me what his true intentions were. It is unfortunate that the conversation was leaked and it is unfortunate that people are talking about my attitude.”

In reply, the Israel Football Association said: “Atar can only blame himself for leaking the conversation with Gutman, someone who pretends to present himself as an honest man can’t act so hypocritically. His attempt to escape responsibility with an untrue statement and his attempt to hurt the team’s preparations prove how correct the coach was not to call him up.”

There was though some good news for Israel when it was revealed that Everton’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku will has been ruled out their games against Cyprus and Israel by injury.