x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Diego Maradona plans for attack

The Al Wasl coach has a gameplan to to counter the threat of Al Ain duo Asamoah Gyan and Yasser Al Qahtani during their Pro League match.

Diego Maradona, right, has given his Al Wasl players marching orders for tomorrow's Pro League game. Ravindranath K / The National
Diego Maradona, right, has given his Al Wasl players marching orders for tomorrow's Pro League game. Ravindranath K / The National

DUBAI // Diego Maradona has called on his players to prove their mettle against Al Ain tonight if they hope to retain their place in the Al Wasl team for next season.

Meanwhile, Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, called for a referee with "a strong backbone" for what is expected to be a tense encounter. "I wish the refereeing level will be good," he said.

He said the referee should be someone "who can handle all situations within a hot-tempered expected atmosphere".

Wasl have played Al Ain three times this season and lost twice, and Maradona acknowledged Al Ain are the best team in the Pro League, where they enjoy a comfortable lead at the top.

Maradona's team are 18 points behind Al Ain after failing to find consistency in their season. The Argentine manager, keen to assemble a stronger squad for next season, has said the game will tell him much about his squad.

"This match will be a big challenge for us, not just the players but the technical staff as well," Maradona said. "We will be giving the players a chance to prove themselves on the field. The players who are able to prove themselves and put in a great performance will definitely continue with us for next season; players who cannot keep up, they will probably have question marks over them.

"It is a very important match for us and we will do our best to win. We are not here to gift matches to anyone and not to Al Ain as well."

Playing at home for the first time in 59 days, Wasl will be missing the Argentine midfielder Juan Ignacio Mercier and the defender Yasser Salem due to suspension, but Maradona said his team is "ready, well-prepared mentally and physically, and we are going to go for three points".

The former Argentina coach has drawn up plans to rein in Al Ain's dangerous attacking duo of Asamoah Gyan and Yasser Al Qahtani.

"We know how they play; they play in front of each other and usually Yasser takes advantage of the space that Gyan creates," Maradona said. "We are fully aware of that and we will definitely find ways to stop them."

Wasl have not played at the Zabeel Stadium since losing 4-2 to Ajman on February 15. They were forced to play two of their home matches at neutral venues due to the misbehaviour of some fans.

It was the second such sanction against Wasl this season and Maradona has appealed to the fans to stay calm and behave during the match against Al Ain. Tickets for the game, including the 1,500 allotted to travelling fans, have been sold out.

Al Ain's Olaroiu said two weeks without an official game has been difficult on his team. He called on his players to concentrate and not be influenced by their large lead over the Dubai club. "Al Wasl are a good team and it is hard for any team in the league to get past them easily," he said.

He made reference to tensions between Maradona and himself when he noted: "I think there is nothing in the match but excitement. However, I have nothing against anybody and I respect all, especially those who respect me."

arizvi@thenational.ae