Hapoel Tel-Aviv will have to rely on a 21-year-old goalkeeper to repel Parma AC later today.
The suspension of goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech, who has been booked three times in the UEFA Cup, means that Hapoel Tel-Aviv will have to rely on an inexperienced 21-year-old to repel Parma AC in the second leg of their fourth-round tie at the Ennio Tardini stadium today. It is a tall order, but the club have the utmost faith in Nir Rahamin, who has made just five league appearances in three years.
In fact, Rahamin has had more experience at international level than domestically, having played seven times for the Israel Under-21 team. He was also outstanding in the UEFA European Under-18 Championship in Spain two years ago and has been tipped for a bright future. One thing is certain, though, Rahamin will not be without support: the Israeli club will be backed by around 4,000 fans in Italy.
Parma are poised to field a stronger side than they did in Israel last week, a game which finished scoreless, with leading goalscorer Marco di Vaio spearheading the attack alongside Emiliano Bonazzoli. Japanese international Hidetoshi Nakata is likely to take a central-midfield role in place of Frenchman Johan Micoud.
Colombian international Jorge Bolano is also expected to return to the midfield, although Parma will be without injured captain Fabio Cannavaro and Stefano Diana, who is ineligible after he played for Brescia Calcio in the UEFA Intertoto Cup earlier in the season.
Impressive league form
Under the guidance of new coach Pietro Carmignani, Parma are in much better shape than they were under predecessor Daniel Passarella and have picked up 19 Serie A points from their last nine games. They come into this game fresh from an impressive 3-2 win defeat of Piacenza FC on Sunday, when Di Vaio, Micoud and Alain Boghossian were all on target. The win lifted them to tenth in the table.
As for Tel-Aviv, they will be without striker Serghey Clescenko after the Moldovan pulled a hamstring in the first game. The defence, already missing goalkeeper Elimelech, has been further weakened by the absence of Asaf Domb, who is suspended. Milan Osterc, who came on as a second-half substitute in the first leg, will take Domb's place.
Tel-Aviv coach Dror Kashtan remains confident that his side can steal a victory. It is a view not without some merit, as anyone who saw the speedy and dangerous Israeli outfit surprise Chelsea FC at Stamford Bridge in the second round will testify.