x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Boys back in town for Wahda

Al Wahda return to full strength for a clash with crisis club Al Shaab when the Etisalat Pro League resumes tonight after a three-week break.

Wahda's Abdulla al Noby evades a Shabab tackle.
Wahda's Abdulla al Noby evades a Shabab tackle.

ABU DHABI // Al Wahda return to full strength for a clash with crisis club Al Shaab when the Etisalat Pro League resumes tonight after a three-week break. Ismail Matar, Mohammed al Shehhi, Haider Ali, Basheer Saeed and Mohammed Othman return from national duty along with the Moroccan international Mourad Ainy, who has recovered from injury.

Abdulraheem Jumaa has also been training but will have to pass a fitness test ahead of the game. The UAE captain and midfield general didn't travel with the national team after a recurring knee injury had ruled him out of last week's World Cup qualifier with South Korea. "The team certainly looks formidable on paper," admitted the coach Ahmed Abdulhaleem, who is relishing the job after inheriting one of the better teams in the country from Brazilian Ivo Wortmann and Dutchman Jo Bonfrere, both fired due to poor results midway through last season.

"They are a pretty good team and I expect a lot from them. We have had a decent start and we need to keep this momentum going." Wahda share the lead with Al Jazira and Al Ain in the league after three rounds, and they are unbeaten in the Etisalat Cup from two games. "This side with more than half the line-up in the national team and four top-class foreign professionals to choose from is a team any coach would be proud to inherit," Abdulhaleem added.

"However, being a good team on paper doesn't guarantee winning tournaments. We need to keep working hard and try to win as many matches as possible. There are no easy games in these competitions. "And Shaab have had their share of the problems already and will be a dangerous side under current circumstances. They will be at home and must have something to prove to their fans." Ayman al Ramadi leads Shaab in his first competitive game since his resignation before the start of the season from Al Dhafra, a club he led to promotion.

The Egyptian takes charge from Luka Berzovic, who was fired earlier in the week following a series of poor results. Shaab are still looking for a win after three league games and have picked up just one point from a 1-1 result over Al Wasl from two cup encounters. They will hope Ramadi will bring them success but it will be a tough task against a full strength Wahda. apassella@thenational.ae