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Saturday, November 17, 2007
Russia expecting no easy task in Israel

Russia star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is not anticipating an easy ride in his side's European Championship qualifier in Israel today.

The hosts are already eliminated from contention in Group E with Croatia, England and Russia contesting the two qualification spots for next summer's tournament in Switzerland and Austria.

Victory for Russia would leave them needing only to win their last match in Andorra to fill one of the places, with Croatia needing a point from their last two games to secure the other - a prospect which would leave England frozen out.

Some have speculated Israel will have little motivation tonight but Bilyaletdinov disagrees.

'Israel are a technical, disciplined rival, but still, we need to approach it from a position of strength and dictate the pace of the game,' Bilyaletdinov told Israeli paper Ha'aretz.

'I imagine Israel's motivation level will be at a high because they are also fighting for their future status before the eyes of all Europe.

'It would be stupid to expect someone to give us a gift. There's no chance that will happen. We'll have to earn the right for a ticket to the Euro 2008 finals.'

The 22-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow striker is expected to join a western European club soon with Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich believed to be one of his admirers.

Bilyaletdinov admitted reaching Euro 2008 would give him a big stage to perform on.

'I want to be a part of a great team, and perhaps advancing to the European Championship finals will be a professional springboard - both for me and others on the national team. I'm ready to go west - I just hope an offer will come my way,' he added.

Israel coach Dror Kashtan is equally convinced his men will be competitive against their visitors from Russia.

He said: 'This is a decisive match for two big national teams and the Israeli fans should proudly support our squad.

'We have to play a positive style of soccer and win. Everything surrounding it will influence our national team's ranking in the future.'




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