x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Wasl progress pleases coach Guy Lacombe

The Dubai side have taken seven points from their last three games despite a growing injury list.

Mariano Donda, celebrating his goal against Dubai, will not be available to play tonight due to the recurrence of a knee injury. Jake Badger for The National
Mariano Donda, celebrating his goal against Dubai, will not be available to play tonight due to the recurrence of a knee injury. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // As if the mounting injuries are not enough to contend with, Al Wasl seem to enjoy making life still harder for themselves.

Admittedly, the Dubai club have embarked on a fine run of form in the Pro League, garnering seven points from a possible nine.

Not bad for a team that had taken only two from their previous five games, a worrying sequence that began as it was revealed Bruno Metsu, their coach, was suffering from serious illness.

Guy Lacombe, a Frenchman of considerable managerial pedigree, replaced his compatriot at the Zabeel Stadium and, although two profitable weeks this month have restored belief, results were obtained in challenging circumstances.

A 3-1 win against Kalba was relatively routine, the point at Dubai and last Monday's home success against Al Shaab anything but. Both involved spirited comebacks; both times two-goal deficits were rescued.

So tomorrow night's trip to a Baniyas side who until two rounds ago were second in the standings has prompted Lacombe to urge Wasl to abandon their first-half failings.

"The team has regained the confidence and the right mentality they had in the first part of the league," said Lacombe, whose side sits mid-table.

"Unfortunately in the last three matches this confidence and this winning mentality only shows in the second half.

"We're working extremely hard to adapt the mentality and the performance from the second half to have the players perform like this from the beginning.

"But we don't look at the last three matches as the benchmark, we just try to improve as we go. The return of Mariano Donda has been important as it has given us support and increased confidence. The more we have regular players starting without injuries the better the performance. They are key elements and give us more belief going into matches."

Unfortunately for Lacombe, Donda, the influential playmaker whose recurring knee problem ensured he missed a large portion of the campaign, is again rated doubtful for the trip to Baniyas Stadium.

Lucas Neill, the Australia defender, is also likely to be absent, while key players Ahmed Darwish, Eisa Ali and Rashid Eisa are ruled out. Their manager acknowledges he has "been very unlucky" in the frequency of injuries to star performers, but cited it as an opportunity for others to excel.

"I have confidence in all my players and I'm sure the replacements will be motivated to prove themselves," Lacombe said. "We'll do all that we can to come up with a positive result against what I believe is a very strong team."

Baniyas have lost successive games to Al Ain, the champions and current league leaders, and a resurgent Al Jazira, but seven wins in their previous nine matches convinces Lacombe they have the quality to extract a win here.

"I don't see a lot of weaknesses in Baniyas, maybe only luck has escaped them recently," he said. "They've had a couple of defeats in difficult matches, so they will be determined to get a good result against us."

Meanwhile, in today's other action, Ze Mario, the Kalba coach, has challenged his side to build on their 3-2 victory against Dibba Al Fujairah with victory at Dubai.

He said: "I couldn't have wished for a better result but the players must carry this momentum forward however hard the next game will be."

Ajman, who are yet to win away from home this season, travel to basement side Dibba Al Fujairah.


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