ABU DHABI // Marco Estrada is set to make his long-awaited Arabian Gulf League debut for Al Wahda when they travel to Baniyas on Sunday night.
The summer signing from the French Ligue 1 club Montpellier has been out since suffering a groin injury in pre-season training.
“We have given him enough time to recover and he’s 100 per cent for this game,” Karel Jarolim, the Wahda coach, said of the Chilean midfielder.
“He has not played for a long time, but with his experience I would like to think he can adapt quickly and contribute to the team.”
Wahda lost 1-0 to Baniyas in the League Cup, but Jarolim insisted his side will be stronger for the league game, with the return of the national team players from their Asian Cup qualifiers and Estrada set for his first start.
Ismail Matar, Hamdan Al Kamali, Eisa Ahmed and Suhail Al Mansoori were the four Emirati players who were away, and Jarolim said he has concerns about rushing them straight back in.
“We had four players away on national duty for nearly three weeks, and apart from Hamdan Al Kamali, none of them got a chance to play a full match during their camp,” he said.
Al Kamali played 20 minutes as a substitute.
“It is difficult for any player to come for an important game like Baniyas without playing for more than three weeks,” Jarolim said.
Baniyas are yet to lose this season, but their coach, Jorge Da Silva, is not taking Wahda lightly.
“It is our second meeting in just over two weeks, but this will be a much harder match than the Cup game,” he said.
“We, too, had some players absent in that game and are expecting a close and strong game.”
AL AHLI v AL SHABAB
Al Ahli will be hoping to consolidate their lead at the top of the table by extending their perfect record when they meet the bottom team, Al Shaab. They will look to maintain the form that saw them trounce Al Wahda 4-1 in the League Cup in their most recent outing.
AL AIN v DUBAI
Manager Quique Sanchez Flores is confident that Al Ain will be firing on all cylinders against Dubai following the return of seven players from international duty, including Asamoah Gyan.
“We had only a few days to regroup, but I am very satisfied with the work,” the Al Ain coach said.
SHARJAH v AL DHAFRA
Abdullah Misfir is expecting an open game between his Al Dhafra side and Sharjah.
Both sides are in mid-table, and Misfir said: “It is an important game for both teams, but like always, we will play for the three points. I believe Sharjah, too, will have the same intent, as they play at home.”