x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Josef Hickersberger acknowledges the risk to his Al Wahda return

Focus for the Austrian is Monday's President's Cup semi-final with Al Shabab.

Josef Hickersberger has had little time with his Al Wahda side ahead of Monday's President's Cup semi-final.
Josef Hickersberger has had little time with his Al Wahda side ahead of Monday's President's Cup semi-final.

ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger says he has taken a "gamble" to take charge of Al Wahda before their "most-important match" of the season with only a week to prepare.

Wahda face Al Shabab in a President's Cup semi-final on Monday in Al Ain, their last chance to win a trophy this season.

"To be honest, time is not on my side," he said in his first address to the media after returning to the Abu Dhabi club for the third time after management decided to fire Branko Ivankovic.

Hickersberger pointed out that Wahda had been hit by injuries recently. "The problem is to find the best possible team and to be sure there is no need to make more than three changes," he said. "I can't start with four five players who can't play 90 minutes."

Hickersberger has had a meeting with Ivankovic, who shared his own knowledge and experience with the team.

"I have been to the UAE three times on holidays since I left Wahda last year," the Austrian said. "And whenever I visited, I took time off to watch as many games as possible, including Shabab's 2-1 defeat to Al Jazira last November. From that game I knew they were an improving side despite that defeat.

"I thought Shabab had a good future after a poor start to the season. They have proved that right with some excellent results from there onwards."

Hickersberger watched their 2-1 away victory over Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the Asian Champions League to qualify for the round of 16 on Wednesday.

"The way they played from the beginning, particularly their transition from defence to offence using the pace of Ciel [Shabab's Brazilian striker] and quick passing game, it was amazing for me," the coach said. "It was really good, modern football. I was impressed.

"If they play the same game they played in Tashkent, we will need something extraordinary.

"On the other hand, we also have a good team and quality players. If we can get off to a good start, some good moves to get our confidence back, then we will be in the game.

apassela@thenational.ae

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