DUBAI // Bruno Metsu, the Al Wasl coach, says his team must play the opponent and not the occasion tomorrow night, as they look to continue their fine start to the season.
The Dubai club face city rivals Al Nasr at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium in a derby match between two sides touted as potential Pro League champions.
Wasl have begun well life under Metsu, the Frenchman who replaced Diego Maradona in July, opening the campaign with two victories and a bounty of goals.
In the first round of the Etisalat Cup last week, Kalba were defeated 4-2, while in the league Al Wahda struggled to contain Emiliano Alfaro, Wasl's new Uruguayan striker, who scored three to help send the Abu Dhabi club to a 4-1 loss.
However, this evening's encounter with Nasr, which takes place at the home of Al Shabab, represents a severe examination of Wasl's credentials. Walter Zenga's men finished second last season and victory on Monday against a strong Al Jazira side suggests they will challenge again this year.
"This is a reference game for us because although the Wahda result was fantastic, now it's important to continue our good start," Metsu said. "In football, if you're a good team you need to confirm that in each game.
"It's important for us to know where we stand. Nasr are a star team. They had a fantastic season last year so we're playing against one of the best sides in the UAE.
"Against Jazira they proved their possibilities for this season, which was not a big surprise. For us, it's a really good test."
Both of Wasl's matches have produced red cards – the defender Ali Mohammed was sent off against Kalba – and Metsu will be reminding his players tomorrow night to maintain their focus.
"In a derby you've more pressure surrounding the game and it's important a player does not forget to play," he said. "They must concentrate only on the game, not everything around it."
"If you lose a player it's a disaster for the team."
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