Israel midfielder Nir Bitton does not see his side as favourites going into their table-topping Euro 2016 qualifier with Wales, but insists they have no reason to feel intimidated at the prospect of facing Gareth Bale and co either.
Israel are one of only four countries still boasting a 100 per cent record in qualifying after winning their opening three matches, leaving them a point clear at the top of Group B.
However, they now face arguably their toughest fixture to date as they play host to second-placed Wales, who are also unbeaten and held highly-fancied Belgium to a goalless draw in Brussels last time out.
Wales also boast the world’s most expensive player in Bale – who will be looking to put on a good performance having come under criticism in Spain for his recent displays with Real Madrid – but Celtic man Bitton does not believe Israel should have any sort of inferiority complex.
He said: “Unlike Wales, we don’t have (a) lot of players with clubs in the Premier League and we don’t have any Real Madrid players. So we are not favourites but I don’t think as a team we are inferior to Wales.
“We want to win and we’ll be going out to win. Wales is not just Gareth Bale. We’ll be trying to beat Wales not Gareth Bale.”
Wales left-back Neil Taylor has described the match as a “massive one” for his side as the Dragons try to qualify for their first major tournament in four decades.
Taylor told the Welsh FA website: “In the current scenario it’s a massive game for us, one we are looking forward to. They’ve done really well in the group so far and it will be a tough environment for us.
“If you want to progress, we have to go to places like this and get a result. Israel will feel the same way as us. There’s a great opportunity to get ahead of the others.”.
Belgium are three points behind Wales after a sluggish start to qualifying but will hope to get back on track with a home victory over Cyprus, who are one point better off than the Red Devils but – like Wales – have played a game more.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots is not expecting an easy game, but is backing his wide players to make the difference.
“They won 2-1 in Bosnia earlier in qualifying. There are no small teams any more,” he said in Het Laatste Nieuws.
“It’s expected they will come here and put a lot of players behind the ball, so I’m definitely counting on my wide players to unlock the door. However, we can’t charge forward blindly because they can counter-attack very quickly.”
Saturday’s other match should see Bosnia and Herzegovina pick up their first win as they take on rock-bottom Andorra, who have conceded 17 goals in their four qualifiers.