Israel manager looking to Tartan spies for help ahead of Scotland clash
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Israel manager looking to Tartan spies for help ahead of Scotland clash

Willi Ruttensteiner is hoping Celtic pair Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed, as well as Ofir Marciano of Hibernian, will help them win at an empty Hampden on Friday night

Scotland's Stuart Armstrong (second right) and Israel's Shiran Yeini (second left) battle for the ball when the two sides met in November 2018 (Jane Barlow/PA Wire.)
Scotland's Stuart Armstrong (second right) and Israel's Shiran Yeini (second left) battle for the ball when the two sides met in November 2018 (Jane Barlow/PA Wire.)

Israel boss Willi Ruttensteiner believes he has found the secret to upsetting Scotland – thanks to his Tartan spies.

Celtic pair Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed, plus Hibernian number one Ofir Marciano, are all key members of the squad preparing to face Steve Clarke’s team at an empty Hampden on Friday night.

And Ruttensteiner revealed he even allowed the Scottish Premiership trio to lead their pre-match debrief on the eve of their Nations League opener, insisting the intelligence they provided was more valuable than any presentation his team of analysts could put together.

The former Austria Under-21 boss said: “The Scottish-based players held the team meeting today because they know the opposition much better than me.

“They have all the information so that is much better than watching a video.

“We have spoken a lot about the Scotland team as they have a lot of players who play in the top league here. There are eight or nine who play in the Premier League and the Championship in England too. We have a great deal of motivation to go and beat them.

“It is difficult to say if Scotland are better than 2018 because there have been no games for almost a year.

“But I do think having no crowd is a small advantage for us. I’ve been here with Austria before and if Hampden is full the fans are like the 12th player on the pitch.”

Friday night’s clash is also a dress rehearsal ahead of next month’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final.

Ruttensteiner – the Israel FA’s technical director – is preparing for his first game in charge after he was ordered to take responsibility for the national team as part of cost-cutting measures in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Those cuts also led to Andreas Herzog’s departure but Ruttensteiner is determined to build on the good work his predecessor put in place, which included the 2-1 win over Alex McLeish’s Scotland back in November 2018.

“I think our goals are clear,” he said. “It’s the beginning of the Nations League campaign and we know how strong Scotland are. It will be difficult.

“We want to win this and then win the semi-final in October.”

Israel finished second bottom of their European Championship qualifying group after shipping 18 goals in just 10 games.

Striker Eran Zahavi, however, finished second only to England skipper Harry Kane in the scoring charts and Ruttensteiner admits he needs the rest of his players to start chipping in.

“It’s right that 11 of our 16 goals were scored by Eran Zahavi,” he said.

“Moanes Dabour got four and the other was scored by our captain Bibras Natkho. We know our aim is to have more of our players becoming dangerous and scoring.

“In the last campaign offence was not our problem. We just didn’t have the right balance between attack and defence. This is where we want to improve.”

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