x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Al Ain bank on squad strength in Asamoah Gyan's absence

Scocco back for the leaders as they take on their "most-balanced" rivals Al Shabab, while Al Kamali deal may fall through.

Gyan's injury is not as serious as was thought.
Gyan's injury is not as serious as was thought.

Al Ain's title push could be derailed by injuries to key players as they face Al Shabab in tonight's top-of-the-table match.

The Pro League leaders will be without Asamoah Gyan, their high-profile summer signing, while Yasser Al Qahtani, the Saudi Arabia forward, and Waleed Salem, the captain and goalkeeper, are both doubtful.

Gyan pulled up while chasing a through ball and was forced to leave the pitch after half an hour in Al Ain's 4-0 victory over Emirates last week.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, said the absence of Gyan, the Ghana international, leaves a big hole in his attack.

"Gyan has showed good performances for us in all games and for that reason we will miss him," Olaroiu said. "This was to be his last game before he joined his national team in the African Cup of Nations.

"His injury is not as serious as we thought. He leaves us one match earlier than we expected and now we have to find solutions until his return. So we will apply teamwork to fill the gaps of any missing player."

Gyan, who is on loan from the English Premier League club Sunderland, tops the league scoring chart with 10 goals from nine matches.

Some consolation for Olaroiu is that Ignacio Scocco, the Argentine midfielder, returns after missing two games while Ali Al Wehaibi, the UAE international, is also back after being rested against Emirates.

"I know we will face a tough team," Olaroiu said ahead of tonight's game. "I have been watching all the teams since arriving at Al Ain, and I was impressed by Shabab because they are the most balanced team. The team includes good players."

The coach said that he was preparing his team in the same way he would against any other Pro League opponents. Olaroiu said of Salem and Al Qahtani: "Waleed's participation is still doubtful and Yasser's eagerness to play makes him to hide his pain and this may result in serious consequences."

Al Ain are the only unbeaten team in the league with 23 points, five ahead of Shabab.

When asked if this could be the title deciding game, Olaroiu said a win would put them in a stronger position but would not guarantee his side the league.

"We are still in the first half of the league. However, if we win against Shabab, it will make us feel relaxed. We will have less pressure in dealing with the upcoming games."

8pm, Abu Dhabi Sports

Al Wahda taking Lyon’s interest in Al Kamali with a pinch of salt

Hamdan Al Kamali’s proposed move to Lyon, the top flight French side, may fall through, with Khaled Awadh, the deputy chief executive officer of the Al Wahda Club, saying the 22-year-old defender will not leave the Abu Dhabi team.

“They [Lyon] don’t seem to be serious,” Awadh said yesterday. “As far as I am concerned, Hamdan is not leaving Wahda. I think we should just leave him alone to concentrate on [the] game with Al Jazira.”

Wahda meet their city rivals tomorrow and Al Kamali had earlier stated he would decide on his move to Lyon after the derby match. When asked for his opinion on Al Kamali’s move to Europe, Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, said: “As coach of Wahda, I wouldn’t want to lose Al Kamali, but on the other hand, I would like to see him play in Europe.

"He is young and can improve his game and set a trend for the Emirati players to play abroad.”

apassela@thenational.ae