x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Wasl need to step up on Wednesday night

After having admitted they will not win the Pro League, the Argentine coach will need to marshal his men against Al Wahda in the Presisdent's Cup.

When Al Wasl made global headlines by hiring Diego Maradona as their coach, back in June, certainly the idea was that silverware, in addition to notoriety, would soon follow.

The attention has come, week on week. The results, however, have not.

After a fallow spell that included only two points from five league matches, Maradona has conceded that the league title already is out of reach.

Wasl still have a major trophy to play for, the President's Cup, but they will need to make a dramatic reversal in form on Tuesday night in a quarter-final match against Al Wahda if they are to remain alive in the knockout competition.

It is expected that Maradona will make sweeping changes in a side he has excoriated for a lack of focus.

One of the moves almost certainly will be to install the new Iranian recruit, the forward Mohammed Reza Khalatbari, into the line-up. Nearly everyone else who isn't named Juan Manuel Olivera, Mariano Donda or Majed Naser also could be replaced.

Making Wasl's assignment more difficult is the grit of a Wahda side who have shrugged off key injuries and the sale of several important players and remained competitive, including a 2-1 league victory over Wasl 11 days ago.

They play again without the Brazilian Magrao, leaving central midfield to again be marshalled by the youngsters Khalid Jalal and Yaqoob Yousef. The scrutiny, though, will be on Maradona's men.

If they fail tonight, their season will be reduced to chasing the consolation prize Etisalat Cup and jockeying for position in the middle of the table.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


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