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Al Wahda head coach Branko Ivankovic.
Al Wahda head coach Branko Ivankovic.

Etisalat Cup: Al Wahda absences a growing concern for Ivankovic

Injuries and suspensions will leave Branko Ivankovic with a selection headache ahead of tonight's Etisalat Cup tie at Al Shaab.

ABU DHABI // Injuries and suspensions continue to dog Al Wahda's season with Branko Ivankovic lamenting the selection headache he faces for tonight's Etisalat Cup tie at Al Shaab.

Joining the growing injury list are Mohammed Al Shehhi and Abdulla Traoure, the defender who was recently signed on a six-month loan from Al Ahli.

Srdan Andric, the Croatian midfielder, and Adel Basulaiman, the defender, are serving one-match bans after being sent off in the 2-1 win over Al Nasr last week.

"What can we do?" Ivankovic said of the situation. "For some strange reasons it just keeps happening to us. We cannot prevent players from getting injured and when they do we need to give them enough time to recover and return.

"We have had injury problems from the beginning of the season and it has only grown."

Despite the problems, Ivankovic is targeting three points from tonight's match. "As always, we will try to win this game, not only because we are playing Shaab but even if we are playing against another team," he said.

"The three points from this game is important as it will increase our chances to reach the last four stage in this competition."

Wahda are on 13 points with three games left. They are five clear of Al Ain who have four games and play Dubai tonight.

Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international who suffered an ankle injury in Wahda's pre-season camp in Germany, has started training with the team but Ivankovic says he wanted to see him play in a couple of friendly games before he can be registered during the transfer window, which is open until February 4.

"Eric has not played for more than six months and coming after an ankle surgery would have a fear in the back of his mind," the coach said.

"He has to start to kick the ball around with confidence and then we'll see. However, the most important thing is that he is now medically fit and to get back training with the team."

Until such time, Marcelo Oliveira, the Brazilian forward who was signed as cover for Mouloungui, will keep his place in the line-up alongside Papa Waigo, the Senegalese forward and the club's top scorer.

Eisa Ahmed, the defender who missed the last game, returns along with Mubarak Al Mansoori, who was suspended.

Shaab are the bottom team in the group with two points from five games. They are already out of contention in the Etisalat Cup but will be looking to give their new Romanian coach Marius Sumudica a first win in three games.

They showed their intent by bolstering their backline with their first two signings of the transfer window, bringing in the goalkeeper Mutaz Abdullah and the right-back Saeed Mubarak.

Abdullah has played for Al Ain, Wahda and Emirates while Mubarak had spells at Hatta and Al Nasr.



Al Ain v Dubai

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, believes his side must win tonight against Dubai to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals in the Etisalat Cup. They are five points adrift of Al Wahda in Group A and Olaroiu said: "We will take the match seriously and with high concentration."

Al Dhafra v Al Wasl

Al Dhafra need to beat Group B leaders Al Wasl tonight if they are to maintain outside hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages. Dhafra, who are fourth in the group, will take heart from Wasl's 1-0 loss to Kalba, who are bottom of the group, in the last round of matches.

Al Jazira v Baniyas

Paulo Bonamigo, the Al Jazira coach, has urged his players to take the inspiration from their 4-3 friendly win over Eintracht Frankfurt when they meet Baniyas tonight in Group B. "I would be looking for a similar performance from my players against Baniyas," the Brazilian said.

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