x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Branko Ivankovic's aim to get Saeed Al Kathiri up to speed

Al Wahda coach says striker is unable to play for a full 90 minutes.

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez takes the ball away from Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Tomas Hubocan last night.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez takes the ball away from Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Tomas Hubocan last night.

ABU DHABI // Getting Saeed Al Kathiri back to the form he produced earlier in the season will be one of Al Wahda coach Branko Ivankovic's tasks as he prepares his team for a home Pro League game against Kalba.

Al Kathiri spent more than two months without playing a full game with the national team in the Gulf Cup, which they won in Bahrain in January.

The Wahda forward was also in the squad that travelled to China for a training camp before the 2-1 victory over Vietnam at the Asian Cup qualifiers February 6.

However, returning to club duties and provided the opportunity as a late substitute, Al Kathiri scored the winner with his first touch of the ball in Wahda's 2-1 win over Al Jazira for a passage to the President's Cup semi-finals last Sunday.

"I still consider him as a goal-scoring potential for us but at the moment he is not ready to play for 90 minutes," Ivankovic said.

"We will do what is best for the club and best for the national team, with him. It is a different programme with the national team and different with the club team.

"He started as a regular for us, but after joining the national team he only played one half of a game in more than two months. As a result, his level dropped.

"Those who play regularly in the national team can maintain their level to a great extent but those who are not in the playing XI don't do much. This is understandable.

"So he has to get back to a good level to play for the club than just trying to rush him back into a game. He may not start against Kalba; perhaps against Dubai in the following week."

According to the coach, Al Kathiri has played only eight games in the last two seasons but has already played more than that number (13) at the halfway stage this season.

"He worked really hard during the pre-season training. He not only started for us but was in the line-up for the national team in some of the friendlies they played ahead of the Gulf Cup.

"He worked very well, I am satisfied and hope he will get back to give us a lot of good moments."

Wahda go in to the league meeting with Kalba buoyed by their President's Cup triumph.

"The win against Jazira will have given my players more confidence. We played as a good unit and tactically, and until the end of the game we had the confidence and did it in that game."

It is also the first time this season that Ivankovic has had all four foreigners in the line-up.

"I am very happy the players are returning to full fitness," he said. "We had a lot of injury problems from the beginning of the season and I would like to think the worst is over for us."

The injuries persist with the forward Mohammed Al Shehhi and the goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani ruled out for the same reason. Adel Basulaiman, the left back, has three yellow cards and hence, will miss the game.

"The team is reaching a good level but from a coach's point of view I want more, like when we are 100 per cent I would want them to give 110 per cent. This is what a good team would try to achieve."