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Scots face triple Israeli strike threat

Eran Zahavi celebrates scoring against Scotland
Eran Zahavi scored on his last visit to Hampden – a 3-2 Nations League loss in 2018
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: 4 September Time: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen live on BBC Radio Scotland and follow updates on the BBC Sport website and app

It’s been a long 10 months as the Scotland national team emerges from its extended, enforced hibernation to take on foes who are about to become even more familiar.

Almost two years ago, on their maiden Nations League voyage and in the shadow of Mount Carmel on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the Scots sank without trace. The 2-1 defeat inflicted on them in Haifa was flattering.

On the night, nothing went right for then-manager Alex McLeish as the Israelis came from a Charlie Mulgrew penalty down to win, with John Souttar’s red card compounding matters.

James Forrest’s mini goal-glut the following month, which included a hat-trick in the Hampden return, secured revenge for the Scots and a place in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final. We didn’t know it at the time, but that too will be against the Israelis in October, delayed from March.

Following those clashes with the Scots, Israel went on to finish second bottom of their Euro 2020 qualifying group, well behind Poland and Austria and Andreas Herzog’s subsequent resignation means they start this campaign with fellow Austrian Willi Ruttensteiner as their new head coach.

Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano played half of the group matches and could be selected again as his main rival, Ariel Harush, is without a club while the Easter Road number one has been performing well.

Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton missed the games against the Scots in 2018 but could even start at centre-half, as he has done for his club on occasion, while clubmate Hatem Abd Elhamed is also a likely starter at the back.

However, Israel’s strength is in the final third, as Steve Clarke will only be too aware ahead of a game that cannot come quickly enough for the national coach.

Players to watch

ERAN ZAHAVI

The 33-year-old’s goal at Hampden in 2018 didn’t just bring the Israelis back to within one goal and made it a nervous final 15 minutes for the Scots, it set him off on one of the most incredible goal gluts in the international game. Including that strike in Mount Florida, Zahavi has scored 13 goals in his last 12 games for Israel, including hat-tricks against Austria and Latvia in back-to-back European qualifiers. Only England’s Harry Kane scored more across all the groups as Zahavi matched Cristiano Ronaldo’s total.

MOANES DABBUR

Celtic fans need no reminding of what the Hoffenheim striker can do. During his goal-laden spell with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Dabbur scored in both games against Brendan Rodgers’ team in the Europa League, around the same time he was turning out against the Scots in the Nations League. A short spell followed with Sevilla in Spain, scoring three Europa League goals for the eventual winners. He has also hit the ground running in Germany, including four after lockdown.

SHON WEISSMAN

The forward is another name that Celtic fans may know given he was linked heavily with the Scottish champions in the summer. At 24, the younger of the triple threat highlighted here, he matched Dabbur’s achievements in the previous two seasons in Austria, his 30 goals for Wolfsberger enough to leave him as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. Just before heading to Glasgow, Weissman signed a four-year deal with Spanish club Real Valladolid as he looks to add to his four Israeli caps so far.

Shon Weissman’s goals for Wolfsberger have won him a move to Real Valladolid

Israel squad

Goalkeepers: Ariel Harush (unattached), Ofir Marciano (Hibernian), Itamar Nitzan (Beitar Jerusalem)

Defenders: Eitan Tibi (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Eli Dasa (Vitesse), Sheran Yeini (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Taleb Tawatha (Ludogorets Razgrad), Orel Dgani (Beitar Jerusalem), Hatem Abd Elhamed (Celtic), Joel Abu Hanna (Zorya Luhansk), Ofri Arad (Maccabi Haifa)

Midfielders: Bibras Natkho (Partizan), Nir Bitton (Celtic), Dor Peretz (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Dan Glazer (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Avi Rikan (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Yonatan Cohen (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Ilay Elmkies (1899 Hoffenheim)

Forwards: Eran Zahavi (Guangzhou), Moanes Dabour (1899 Hoffenheim), Manor Solomon (Shakhtar Donetsk), Shon Weissman (Real Valladolid), Eylon Almog (Maccabi Tel Aviv).

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