ABU DHABI // By tomorrow evening, the Pro League title will belong to Al Wahda, provided they win in Sharjah or if Al Jazira, their closest challengers, fail to defeat relegated Ajman on home soil. Wahda have topped the table since they beat Jazira 2-1 on February 14 at their Al Nahyan Stadium to go three points clear. They now have a five-point lead with two games left and travel to mid-table Sharjah tonight.
Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, coined a tennis expression, saying: "We are going into this game with two match points. All we need is either a win or two draws [from the last two games], but we don't want to prolong it any longer, and God willing, we will return as the champions. "We have a perfect record in the second half of the league and I don't see any reason why we can't win this game and complete our job with a game in hand. What's important at this stage is the result and I'm happy the way we have gone about it in the last two games."
Hickersberger admitted his team did not play well against Emirate two games ago, a match they won 3-1 after missing several chances, before overcoming a stubborn Baniyas 2-1 last week. "There was some tension but these things are bound to happen in such situations. It was the results that mattered in these two games, however," said the coach. "We don't want to see the team playing spectacular football and not winning. So in that respect we have achieved the desired results. Our record in the second half of the league has been remarkable having dropped just two points from a draw."
Haider Ali, the captain, will sit out the game because of a one-match ban. Abdulraheem Jumaa, the midfielder who suffers from a recurring knee injury, has to pass a fitness test and Fahad Masoud, the right winger, returns after more than two months out. "We are travelling with a strong squad and both Abdulraheem and Fahad are in the squad, and we'll play them if required," said Hickersberger, one of a few to have both played and managed a team in the World Cup finals.
Hickersberger complimented Sharjah's vastly improved campaign after the situation they were in last season, when they withdrew midway through the Asian Champions League in order to avoid relegation from the Pro League. "Sharjah are traditionally a strong team but they had problems in the last two seasons," added Hickersberger. "This year, they have done pretty well for a team that was struggling to avoid relegation and a lot of credit should go to the coach [Manuel Cajuda] for bringing in a lot of young players and building a strong squad."
Sharjah are fifth in the table and were partly responsible for Jazira losing out in the title race when they held them to a 1-1 away draw. firstname.lastname@example.org Sharjah v Wahda, 7.35pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 1