Chilean still recovering from groin injury as Baniyas welcome back their foreign attack and a rejuventated Sharjah side looks to improve, writes Amith Passela
Al Wahda manager Karel Jarolim is being patient with Marco Estrada
ABU DHABI // Karel Jarolim, the Al Wahda coach, is not fretting over Marco Estrada’s prolonged absence.
He has given the Chile international midfielder more time off to recuperate and return fully fit for when the Arabian Gulf League resume in just over two weeks.
Estrada, 30, has yet to make his first appearance for the Abu Dhabi club after moving from the French Ligue 1 side Montpellier in the summer.
He suffered a groin injury during pre-season training and has been sidelined as the club prepares for their sixth game of the new season in all competitions when they host Baniyas in the League Cup on Thursday night.
Jarolim said: “Sometimes it is frustrating when you don’t have all the foreign players at the beginning of the season but in this case we need to give him enough time to return fully fit.
“We are monitoring his progress. He has recovered from the injury and is in rehabilitation. However, we can’t say exactly when he would be back to full fitness.
“We thought he would be ready in time for the Baniyas game but he is still not 100 per cent ready to play. So we have given him more time because we don’t want to expose him to any risk.”
Wahda will be without five of their key players – Ismail Matar, Hamdan Al Kamali, Eisa Ahmed, Salem Saleh and Sohail Al Mansoori – all joining the UAE team in a camp in China for their preparation for the Asian Cup Qualifier against Hong Kong on October 15.
“After this game, we have another two weeks before the next match against the same opponent in the league. Hopefully he [Estrada] will be ready by then,” Jarolim said.
“The cup games are designed to provide the fringe players more playing opportunities. We need to see them play and in order to have them as cover for injured players.”
Wahda already have one win and a loss in the League Cup and the coach said his side are targeting another victory on Thursday night.
“In the early part of the season, like every team, our target would be to chase after every trophy,” he said. “Baniyas are a very good side and they have dangerous foreign players in the front. We will try to use the right balance against them to win the three points.”
Carlos Munoz (Chile), Luis Farina (Argentina) and Marcelo Leite Pereira, the Brazilian who was signed hours before the transfer window closed on September 22, have all impressed for Baniyas.
They have all opened their accounts, scoring on their league debuts, including Pereira, who came off the bench to get on the scoresheet in Baniyas’ 4-1 thrashing of Dubai last week.
Baniyas were impressive in their only cup game, defeating Al Ain 3-1. They fielded only one foreigner – Farina – in that game. Against Wahda, they are likely to field all three in attack.
Baniyas will be without Emiratis Amer Abdulrahman and Haboush Saleh, and the Oman international Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini, who are all on international duty.
Sharjah v Dubai
Paulo Bonamigo’s rejuvenated Sharjah side will be out to improve further on their strong start to the season when they meet Dubai on Thursday night. The Brazilian, above, has transformed “The King” and led them to two wins in their three Arabian Gulf League games as well as a resounding 3-0 win in their opening League Cup game against his former club Al Jazira. They will start as firm favourites against Dubai, who lost their opening Group A game 1-0 to Al Wahda and then frittered away a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 by Al Shaab in their second match.
Ajman v Al Dhafra
Emmanuel Clottey is aiming to repeat his goalscoring heroics for Al Dhafra at Ajman on Thursday night. His hat-trick after coming on as a second-half substitute helped Dhafra beat Al Ain 4-3 on Friday. “Sometimes you need to get a bit lucky to get those chances or half chances to score,” the forward on loan from Esperance Tunis, said. “I hope I will get more such opportunities against Ajman.” Dhafra have two wins from two in Group B after victories against Al Ahli and Al Wasl, while Ajman are also unbeaten with four points from two games.