x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Wahda confident - but they expect to get a fight from Emirate

Pro League leaders Al Wahda will not be taking Emirate for granted when they meet today as they look to stay on track in their quest for the championship.

ABU DHABI // Pro League leaders Al Wahda will not be taking Emirate for granted when they meet today as they look to stay on track in their quest for the championship. Emirate sent Josef Hickersberger's side out of the President's Cup semi-final in February with a 1-0 win on their way to winning the competition for the first time. Hickersberger will certainly not want to see a repeat of that when they meet at the Al Nahyan Stadium - and with just four games left in the season, he is confident his side will not falter.

"We are going through a critical phase in the league and this is the first of the four important games for us," said the Austrian. "We won the last league match away against Al Ain and I would think we can win three points from Emirate." Wahda are boosted as their captain Haider Ali, who missed their last league game against Al Ain, is back along with Mahmoud Khamis and Talal Abdulla. Joining them are Ismail Matar and Basheer Saeed, and the Brazilian pair Pinga and Magrao, all of whom were rested in their 1-0 win over Zobahan of Iran in the Asian Champions League last week.

Still absent are the suspended Fernando Baiano and the injured defender Hamdan al Kamali. "Those who were rested last week in the ACL are back fresh for this game along with those who missed the league match against Al Ain," said Hickersberger. "So we go at almost full strength but we still need to go out there and perform, which I am confident of. "It is an important game for Emirate as they are fighting relegation. The confidence in their camp will be high after winning the Cup."

Wahda are on a roll with 10 wins and a draw in their past 11 league games. They fielded a second-string team to stun Zobahan, the Group B leaders in the ACL, and at full strength will be expected to maintain their position in the league. Wahda are on 46 points and two ahead of Al Jazira, who have played a game more than their local rivals. Emirate are second from bottom, five points below Al Nasr and Al Shabab, who face Sharjah in the other game tonight.

Jazira kept their slim title hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Nasr at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium last night. Tony, the Ivorian forward, put them ahead with a 63rd-minute penalty after Mohammed Nosrati felled Ibrahim Diaky. They doubled the lead three minutes from time when Ali Mabkhout's shot went in off Mahmoud Hassan. apassela@thenational.ae Al Wahda v Emirate 6pm and Sharjah v Al Shabab 8.30pm