x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

New coach, age-old problem for Al Wahda ahead of UAE League Cup

Jarolim without new signing Estrada as well as Matar, Al Kamali and Ahmed for first official game in charge against Dubai, reports Amith Passela.

Al Wahda coach Karel Jarolim, centre, is without a host of first-team regulars for his first official game in charge tonight. Shadi malkawi / Al Ittihad
Al Wahda coach Karel Jarolim, centre, is without a host of first-team regulars for his first official game in charge tonight. Shadi malkawi / Al Ittihad

ABU DHABI // Karel Jarolim, the Al Wahda coach, will have to address the same old problem that predecessors Josef Hickersberger and Branko Ivankovic had to deal with – injuries.

The Czech, who took charge of the Abu Dhabi club in the summer, will be without new signing Marco Estrada, the Chile international, as well as the experienced Emirati trio Ismail Matar, Hamdan Al Kamali and Eisa Ahmed for his first official game in charge.

Wahda are also missing three players – Mohammed Al Shehhi, Saeed Al Kathiri, and Mubarak Al Mansouri – who are on national duty when they face Dubai in Tuesday night's League Cup opener at the Al Nahyan Stadium.

"We had a good preparation camp in Germany and are looking forward to a good first game, although we have injury problems," Jarolim said.

Wahda have gone trophyless since winning the now-rebranded Arabian Gulf League in 2010.

They dropped to fourth place the following season and have finished sixth and seventh in the last two campaigns.

Injuries to some key players, particularly the foreigners, have hindered their progress.

Last season, the club had to find late replacements in the transfer market for Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international forward signed from the French Ligue 1 club Nice, and Mohammed Al Balushi, the Oman international, who were both injured. It was the same scenario in the two previous seasons.

"Injuries are something we don't have any control of, but we will try to deal with it the best way possible," Jarolim said.

"Marco will be ready in three weeks and Ismail and Hamdan are still recovering from the treatments they underwent during the summer.

"Ismail and Hamdan have started training but they are not 100 per cent. Eisa received a blow to his leg during training and will have to pass a fitness test on the morning of the match.

"We don't want to rush them, because we have a long season ahead and they are very important players to us.

"In this game, we will try out a few fringe players. This will be a good opportunity for them to find a regular place in the line-up."

Damian Diaz and Sebastian Tagliabue, the Argentine duo, make their debuts while Dino Djulbic, the Australian centre-back who joined during the January transfer window last season, is set to play a key role in defence.

"Damian and Sebastian have combined well with the latter scoring in the friendly games, and yes, they seem to have struck a good partnership," Jarolim said.

The opening round of games in the tournament have been reduced to low-key affairs with some of the key players on UAE international duty in the OSN Cup, a four-team friendly tournament in Riyadh. They play Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday.

The League Cup competition also sees a change from last year, with two groups of seven teams featuring in a home-and-away format and the top two teams advancing to the semi-finals.

"We are quite happy to start with a couple of cup games, as it provides us an opportunity to experiment a bit, but having said that, we treat every game as important and obviously want to win every competition," Jarolim said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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