x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Al Wasl in pole position to reach Etisalat Cup semi-finals

If Maradona's team slip up against Jazira then both Al Ain and Dubai have chance to qualify. Audio interviews

Al Wasl, in yellow, must beat Al Jazira tonight to claim a spot in the last four. The first cup meeting this season ended 4-3 to Jazira.
Al Wasl, in yellow, must beat Al Jazira tonight to claim a spot in the last four. The first cup meeting this season ended 4-3 to Jazira.

The race is on to clinch the final spot in the semi-finals of the Etisalat Cup, with three teams still in contention from Group A.

The equation is simple for Al Wasl, who will qualify if they beat Al Jazira, who have already claimed their place in the last four. However, if Diego Maradona's team lose or draw, things start to get complicated, with Al Ain and Dubai ready to pounce on any slip-up.

Al Ain, a point behind Wasl, are away at Al Wahda, with both sides depleted by players on international duty.

A win would put the Garden City side through if Wasl draw or lose.

If both Wasl and Al Ain fail to win, Dubai - a further point back - can sneak through by beating bottom-placed Emirates at home.

There are further scenarios, with head-to-head record deciding things in the case of two teams being level on points.

Dubai beat Wasl 5-0 and 3-0 in the competition, while Al Ain and Maradona's side have an identical head-to-head record, meaning goal difference would come into the equation.

Franky Vercauteren, the Jazira coach, expects Wasl to come very hard against them in a game being played at the Baniyas stadium in Abu Dhabi after the Dubai side were banned from the Zabeel Stadium for two matches because of the behaviour of their fans.



"They have an opportunity to win something and we would expect them to give 200 per cent," said Vercauteren. "This match is going to be a semi-final for them. It is true we have already qualified but that doesn't make us less motivated to win this game."

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, is simply focusing on beating Wahda, with qualification resting on results elsewhere. "The semi-final is not in our hands," said the Romanian. "All we can do is to try to win and then accept whatever the outcome of the other games.

"We will try to field the best available team and some of those players who returned from national duty who didn't get a chance to play in the UAE's 4-2 win over Lebanon. The game is another good opportunity to complete what we had started recently, to prepare players to fill the voids left by those who are on national duty ."

Olaroiu will have several players absent after playing for the senior national team and those who are training with the Olympic team, but Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana forward, and Mirel Radoi, the Romanian midfielder, are both fit.

Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, will again use the game to provide valuable match practice for his fringe players.

"It will be a very good opportunity for them to play against a fired-up opposition. Al Ain will want to win because they still have a chance to reach the last four. We would also expect them to play their strongest available line-up."

Dubai should be able to see off Emirates. The Ras Al Khaimah side have fielded a reserve team for most of the tournament and have conceded 22 goals in nine games.