Salem Abdullah hopes to continue his return from a career-threatening injury when Al Ain conclude their pre-season camp in Doha with a friendly against Al Sadd on Wednesday night.
The 25-year-old midfielder suffered a serious knee problem after colliding with Ali Kasheif, the Al Jazira goalkeeper, in the middle of the 2009/10 season. He underwent surgery, missed the second half of that campaign and the whole of last season.
Abdullah is now on the road to recovery and played the first half of the friendly with Al Kharitiyat on Sunday, before being replaced by Shehab Ahmed.
He is expected to play some part in the game with Al Sadd, the side managed by Jorge Fossati, the former Uruguay goalkeeper.
"I praise and thank Allah for joining my friends again and to wear the Al Ain jersey after a long period of injury," Abdullah said. "I believe that I'm asked to double my efforts to reach the needed readiness and to reclaim my level which enables me to participate with my colleagues in the team and to hit the target in the coming season.
"Although I feel better I still have to reach the highest point of fitness which I will do by the beginning of the coming season through serious work in the training sessions."
Since Abdullah has been out injured, Al Ain have replaced their foreign players at least once. Brahima Keita, Milovan Mirosevic and Jose Sand left at the end of last season and Mirel Radoi, Ignacio Scocco and Yasser Al Qahtani, the Saudi Arabia captain, have been recruited in their place. The club are still searching for a fourth foreign player to complete their quota. While Scocco is working his way back from injury, Radoi proved the match winner against Al Kharitiyat, scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.
"It seems clear that we have such amazing understanding now after the new players have joined," Abdullah said. "I don't want to speak about the past because we are thinking of the future and we are aware that we should win a title to please our fans and to translate the efforts of the board of directors and get the team back to its appropriate position as one of the best clubs locally, regionally and continentally."
Bernard Simondi, the Al Kharitiyat coach, was impressed by the performance of the visitors, who were watched by Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed, the Al Ain club chairman.
"I think Al Ain played a good match and there is great development in their performance and I think that when their international players come back their team will be one of the best clubs in Asia," Simondi said.
Cosmin Olaroiu, Al Ain's Romanian head coach, is currently without the services of Ali Al Wehaibi, Musallam Fayez, Mohammed Abdurrahman, Al Qahtani and Jaris Juma, who are on international duty with the national team. Scocco is still feeling his way back from injury, yet Olaroiu showed the depth of his squad by making 12 second-half changes.
"I saw an organised team able to say their word in the field despite the coach replacing all the main players in the second half," Simondi said.
"Yet they succeeded in proving themselves in filling the gaps and to show great eagerness to score in many attempts through the tactical commitment in all lines. As long as you have great players you can hit your targets."