ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, is counting the cost of his team's exploits in the Club World Cup as they return to Pro League action tonight for the first time in seven weeks.
Wahda face second-placed Baniyas in a crucial away fixture and will be without three key players as a direct result of taking part in the Fifa tournament.
And Hickersberger said playing in the competition could have damaged their defence of the Pro League title.
He said: "This Fifa tournament does not help us for the match against Baniyas. It's the opposite. It did great harm to us because we had to play three tough matches in a very short time in a week, and Baniyas can prepare for this decisive match very well."
Hickersberger will be without Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian striker, and Haider Ali, his captain and midfielder, who are both ruled out because of injuries they suffered in the Club World Cup.
And Hamdan al Kamali, the young central defender, is ruled out as he serves a one-match ban for being sent off against Pachuca, who beat Wahda 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after the play-off for fifth-place ended 2-2 after 90 minutes. A new rule stipulates that suspensions and bookings from Fifa or Asian Football Confederation tournaments must be carried forward to domestic competitions.
The UAE international was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the match, leaving Hickersberger understandably angry.
"We are punished now for competing and playing three matches in the Fifa Club World Cup and al Kamali, an important player, is suspended for the next match in the local competition against Baniyas," the Austrian said.
"It's a completely different competition. One is a Fifa competition, the other is a local one. So why the mix up in these two competitions, I don't know. It is stupid. That is my opinion."
Wahda could also be without Saeed al Kathiri, with the forward suffering from flu, but it is the games against continental champions that have taken their toll.
"For us, we lost a lot of energy in these matches," Hickersberger said. "We lost al Kamali and have some injured players. Of course, we've got some experience, and that's good for us, especially the younger players, but the bad facts will be much bigger and will make a big difference."
Hickersberger was without Ali, Baiano and his Brazilian compatriot Magrao against Pachuca after they picked up injuries against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, the Asian champions from South Korea, in their 4-1 quarter-final loss
He said of tonight's game: "We are playing one of the best teams in the league but if we can play a good game, we can win even without some of the key players.
"We must win this game so we don't fall too far behind Jazira."
Wahda are eight points behind Al Jazira, the Pro League leaders, but have a game in hand as the competition goes into round 10.
6.15pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and Dubai Sports 1