x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Injury hit Al Wahda still positive ahead of President's Cup derby clash with Al Jazira

Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, believes his side can prevail against their high-flying neighbours in tonight's match at Baniyas.

Al Wahda coach Branko Ivankovic.
Al Wahda coach Branko Ivankovic.

An intriguing derby game is on the card when Al Jazira meet Al Wahda for a semi-final spot in the President's Cup tonight at the Baniyas stadium.

Both camps are upbeat, although Branko Ivankovic thinks Jazira are in a better position.

"They have good balance in the team with quality in each line - attack, midfield and defence," the Croatian said.

"They are in a much better position than us because they have more points than us in the Pro League. They will be a confident team. But we also have confidence and big ambitions.

"We trust ourselves. We have shown we can play with any team. We have had some good and some disappointing results, but this knockout format of the competition is different. It is the best team on the day."

Ivankovic has had injury problems with his side since the beginning of the season and still hasn't seemed to have overcome those problems.

Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international who returned from an ankle surgery for one game during the winter transfer window has been sidelined again for the rest of the season as the injury resurfaced.

A sore ankle has kept Mohammed Al Shehhi from training since last week's 3-2 win over Dubai in the Etisalat Cup and Adel Al Hosani, the goalkeeper, will have to pass a late fitness test.

The national team players - Ismail Matar, Hamdan Al Kamali, and Saeed Al Kathiri - have spent more time on the bench than on the pitch.

"Al Kathiri has not played only one game in more than two months and his level of play has dropped considerably," Ivankovic said.

"The work they do with the national team and work they do with the club is different. The training with the national team is confined to tactics and games, and when the player is not in the line-up they work even less. When you are play games then it's different."

Matar has not had a regular start due to a niggling knee injury and Al Kamali, the centre back, has been left out from the recent games.

Despite those setbacks Ivankovic remains positive of progressing in the competition.

"I am always going in to any game thinking of a win even if the odds are against us. This is not by words alone," he said.

"Jazira has big ambitions. They may have not started well but they have progressed well to be on contention in all three domestic competitions."

He acknowledged Jazira's strength through their foreign players - Ricardo Oliveira, Fernandinho, Matias Delgado, and Shin Hyung-min, who won't be in the line-up as he serves a one-match ban for three yellow cards.

Ivankovic singled out Ali Kasheif, the goalkeeper, as their key man though.

"He has been outstanding for both, the club and the national team and for me to the ball past him will be a big challenge for my players," Ivankovic said.

"However, I expect a good game, big game, nice game and for the fans from both sides to enjoy this game.

"If we go in to the shoot-out, we are prepared for it. But we don't have any intentions to want to take the game to extra time. We too have quality and in football everything is possible."

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