Spanish face Germany in Davis Cup quarters
PARIS: Title-holders Spain are going for the kill as they tackle old foes Germany in their Davis Cup quarter-final tie in the cauldron of a Marbella bullring starting on Friday.
The Spaniards will be without star player Rafael Nadal as they take on the Germans on the specially laid red clay court in the centre of the Puerto Banus bullring from July 10-12.
Spanish team skipper Albert Costa will be counting on Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez against the Germans with world number two Nadal sidelined with a knee injury.
But despite Nadal's absence, Costa does not fear the Germans.
"Germany will be difficult because they are a great team, but we don't fear them," said Costa, who forecast a "tough and close" match against the likes of Nicolas Kiefer and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Both sides have met 14 times over the past 90 years with Germany leading 9-5. But they have lost their past two ties against the Spaniards including last year's quarter-finals in Bremen.
Spain won the trophy for the third time last year - also in Nadal's absence - beating Argentina. And even without him they will be favourites on clay on the Costa del Sol.
Even Germany's top player Tommy Haas preferred to give the trip a miss citing niggling injuries.
"In Spain, on clay ... I'm not going to put myself through that," said Haas.
Germany skipper Patrick Kuhnen will be counting on Kohlschreiber, Kiefer, Mischa Zverev and Andreas Beck.
Elsewhere, the United States travel to Croatia with the Czech Republic facing a weakened Argentina missing David Nalbandian and Russia heading to Israel.
The Americans will be without Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick for their tie in Porec because of a hip injury. He will be replaced by world No. 23 Mardy Fish, who joins James Blake and doubles specialists Bob and Mike Bryan.
The Americans are bidding to defeat Croatia for the first time, having lost to them in the first round in 2003 and 2005.
Israel will be looking to reach their first Davis Cup semi-final against Russia in Tel Aviv. The Israelis face a tough tie against a Russian side which has reached the semi-finals for the last four years.
Russia will be without their top player, 11th-ranked Nikolay Davydenko. The team will be led by 24th-ranked Igor Andreev, and former top-ranked Marat Safin, ranked 60th.
Czech Republic v Argentina
Croatia v United States
Spain v Germany
At Tel Aviv
Israel v Russia