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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UAE all set to welcome back Omar Abdulrahman this week

Playmaker's comeback means he will join squad for upcoming Asian Cup training camp in Europe

Omar Abdulrahman notched the third goal in the UAE's 3-0 win over Laos on Tuesday night. AFP
Omar Abdulrahman notched the third goal in the UAE's 3-0 win over Laos on Tuesday night. AFP

Omar Abdulrahman will return to the UAE national team this week as preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil continue.

The 26-year-old playmaker missed this month’s get-together as his future with Al Ain remained uncertain before he eventually signed for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal on a free transfer. Abdulrahman had been Al Ain captain and last season led the Garden City side to success in both the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup.

The return of Abdulrahman to the national team represents a major boost for manager Alberto Zaccheroni, whose side have struggled for goals since his appointment last October.

The UAE camp, which takes place in Girona, Spain, from Saturday until September 12, marks the second of five in the build-up to next January’s Asian Cup. In Spain, Zaccheroni’s men are scheduled to play friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago on September 6 and Laos five days later.

Zaccheroni was present last Saturday for the Arabian Gulf Super Cup at Cairo’s June 30 Stadium to watch Al Wahda defeat UAE champions Al Ain on penalties. The 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League gets under way this week, with matches played on Thursday and Friday before the national team leave for Girona on Saturday.

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Alberto Zaccheroni  was present last Saturday for the Super Cup in to watch Al Wahda defeat UAE champions Al Ain on penalties. UAE FA
Alberto Zaccheroni  was present last Saturday for the Super Cup in to watch Al Wahda defeat UAE champions Al Ain on penalties. UAE FA

The Spain camp follows on from one earlier this month in Salzburg, Austria, which concluded with a 0-0 draw against Andorra. The UAE have little more than four months before they open the Asian Cup against Gulf neighbours Bahrain, in Abu Dhabi, on January 5.

Hosts of the continent’s premier competition for only the second time, the UAE have been placed in Group A alongside Bahrain, India and Thailand. The country's previous best finish was runners-up in 1996, the only other time the tournament was held in the Emirates.

Next year’s Asian Cup will for the first time feature 24 teams.