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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE continue Asia Cup preparations with Honduras friendly in Barcelona

Alberto Zaccheroni's squad have three months to fine tune ahead of hosting the continental tournament

UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni has taken charge of a training camp in Spain. UAE FA
UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni has taken charge of a training camp in Spain. UAE FA

UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni may provide veteran striker Ismail Matar an opportunity to return to the national team in the international friendly against Honduras in Barcelona on Thursday.

Al Wahda forward Matar, 35, is part of the 28-player squad for Zaccheroni’s training camp in Spain from October 6-16, the third of the five camps scheduled overseas as the Italian continues to prepare the UAE for the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.

Matar hasn’t played for the national team in over a year, but is included in a bid to strengthen Zaccheroni’s forward options to support the two lead strikers, Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil.

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Playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, the UAE’s finest player, is part of Zaccheroni’s setup having left UAE football for Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal in August.

The match at the Olympic Stadium will be the fourth friendly for the UAE as they continue to prepare for the 24-team continental championship from January 5 to February 1.

The squad go into the game against Honduras after a 3-0 win over Laos last month. Prior to that, the UAE were held to a goalless draw by Andorra in August and lost 3-0 to Trinidad & Tobago 3-0 in Spain on September 6.

With less than three months left before the Asian Cup, Zaccheroni’s side will be aiming to impress on home soil in a Group A that includes Bahrain, India and Thailand.

The friendly against Honduras will be followed by a meeting with Venezuela five days later. The UAE are also set to play Paraguay, Jamaica and Costa Rica, the dates of which are expected to be announced next week.

The UAE enter the 2019 Asian Cup having finished third at the most recent edition of the tournament in Australia. The national team's best showing was a runner-up finish in 1996 - the last time the Emirates hosted the competition.