DUBAI // Al Ain will be looking to keep their hopes of a double on track when they host Dubai in an Etisalat Cup match tonight.
Al Ain, who are on top of the Pro League table, are second in Group A of the Etisalat Cup, six points behind Al Jazira, who have already qualified for the semi-finals. There is a tough competition for the other last-four berth, with Al Ain on 13 points, and Dubai and Al Wasl on 12 each.
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, said: "For me, the important thing is to win the Dubai game. We will see what happens thereafter. If we win, our chances of qualifying to the semi-finals behind Al Jazira will improve.
"It is not an easy game because Dubai have good organisation, especially in their defence."
The Romanian, however, is toying with the idea of resting some of his front-line players. Before the next Pro League match, Al Ain will have seven or eight players away on national duty, and Olaroiu wants to use the time on developing his bench strength.
"We will concentrate on the tactical and technical side of our game against Dubai," he said.
"We are thinking of a one-month programme because during this period we have players in the UAE Olympic team and the national team.
"It is a good opportunity for our other players to prove themselves. Some of them have not played a lot and now they have a chance to show their abilities and it is a good opportunity for us to see them and to find new solutions for the team. … We have seven to eight players in the Olympic team and the national team, and we will use other players.
"We also need to take care of Asamoah Gyan after his return from national duty [with Ghana]. He is available, but he may not play the full game. Yasser Al Qahtani also joins his national team [Saudi Arabian]."
While other coaches here have been unhappy about losing their players to national duty, Olaroiu is proud of contributing an increasing number of players to the UAE teams.
"When I came here, there was only Ali Al Wehaibi and Fares Juma in the national team and now we have six to seven players, which is good for our team," Olaroiu said. "I hope there will be more from our team pushing for a place in the national team."
Walter Zenga's Al Nasr, who are second behind Al Ain in the Pro League, will also be missing two important players - Australia's Mark Bresciano and the Emirati Humaid Abbas - when they travel to Group B leaders Al Shabab tomorrow.
Both Bresciano and Abbas will be on national duty and Zenga is not in favour of scheduling matches when the national teams are playing.
"I prefer that the season stops when the national team is playing; there should be no matches," said the Italian, expressing his displeasure with the frequent stoppages in the Pro League.
"You stop the league, restart it and then stop again," he said. "Then some players leave for the national team.
"So it is not easy to prepare for such a game, but we try to do our best because we want to honour this competition."
Nasr have no chance of progressing to the semi-finals as they have only eight points with two matches to play. Shabab are top with 16 points, followed by Al Ahli (14) and Ajman (13).
Ahli, who are struggling in the league, will be keen to keep their cup campaign going when they travel to Sharjah tomorrow, while Ajman will host Baniyas.