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Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda manager, is once again relying on a team short on experience. Ihsan Naji / Al Ittihad
Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda manager, is once again relying on a team short on experience. Ihsan Naji / Al Ittihad
Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda manager, is once again relying on a team short on experience. Ihsan Naji / Al Ittihad

Etisalat Cup: Al Wahda coach has faith in his bench

Branko Ivankovic is confident about the youngsters delivering in the absence of key players such as Ismail Matar as the Abu Dhabi club prepare for Al Nasr in the Etisalat Cup.

ABU DHABI // Al Wahda are once again up against it as they prepare meet Al Nasr in a crucial Etisalat Cup match at the Al Nahyan stadium on Thursday night.

Branko Ivankovic, Wahda's coach, is without his key Emirati players - on national duty for the Gulf Cup of Nations in Bahrain - and he also has a lengthy injury list.

Ismail Matar, the captain and playmaker, along with the striker Saeed Al Kathiri and centre-back Hamdan Al Kamali, are with the UAE team. Mohammed Ahmed and Abdulla Jassem, the young forward and defender, are the latest injury casualties.

Eisa Ahmed, the experienced defender, will miss the game, having gotten married on Sunday, and the midfielder Mubarak Al Mansoori is serving a one-match ban for receiving three yellow cards.

"We have had injury problems right from the beginning of the season and still we have managed to come out with some good performances," Ivankovic said. "We will miss three key players who are on national duty for this game besides the injuries and some absentees for different reasons. Still, I hope those given the opportunity will rise to the occasion.

"It is indeed a very important match for us at this stage of the competition because three points can put us in a very strong position for the knock-out round."

Wahda top Group A on 10 points, two more than Al Ain, and a win can take them five clear with three games left.

The top team from each of the three groups will be joined by the best second-place team in the last stage of the competition.

Wahda's first meeting against Nasr this season was a 3-0 triumph away in the Etisalat Cup on September 19, but they went down 4-1 in their Pro League encounter two months later.

"The first meeting against Nasr was a good one but the result that followed was terrible and our third meeting should be an interesting one," Ivankovic said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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