x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Out of contention for Pro League title, four sides prepare for Etisalat Cup

Al Wahda meet Al Shabab in the first match, at 5.40pm at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium in Al Ain, and Al Wasl play Al Ain at 8.30pm at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Carlos Villanueva, centre, the Al Shabab forward, will be in action against Al Ain tonight in the Etisalat Cup.
Carlos Villanueva, centre, the Al Shabab forward, will be in action against Al Ain tonight in the Etisalat Cup.

Four clubs with vanishing hopes in the Pro League title race can move within a victory of a domestic trophy in the Etisalat Cup semi-finals tonight.

Al Wahda meet Al Shabab in the first match, at 5.40pm at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium in Al Ain, and Al Wasl play Al Ain at 8.30pm at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

"We see this game as a great chance to go to a final," said Alexandre Gallo, the coach of Al Ain, the nine-time champions who find themselves in the unfamiliar position of the relegation zone.

"We are determined to reach the final," Rami Yaslem, the captain, said. "It's the only local competition left for Al Ain."

Wasl, their opponents tonight, are in the semi-finals of the President's Cup and lie fourth in the league, within reach of an Asian Champions League berth for 2011.

"We are competing in three tournaments and giving equal weight to each of them," said Leandro Simpson Louredo, the Wasl assistant coach. "Al Ain have only this tournament left and they will very much want to win this game."

Al Ain have been battered by injuries and will be without their playmaker, Omar Abdulrahman, who is on national duty with the Under 23 team.

Since loaning target man Jose Sand to Deportivo La Coruna in January, Al Ain have struggled to score.

"We do not have a clear striker so the goals have to be scored by other members of the team," Yaslem said. "Others have to step up. We all have to work together to solve this problem."

Gallo, the Brazilian who took over the team in December, said his club have played well recently, including in a 1-0 Champions League home defeat to FC Seoul last week.

"We have often been better than the other side, but we will have trouble until we start scoring goals," he said.

Wahda and Shabab are also in the President's Cup semi-finals but lag in the middle of the league table.

Wahda played an entertaining 1-1 Champions League draw with Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan last week. Shabab have not played since a 3-0 victory over second-tier side Al Dhaid nearly two weeks ago.

Wahda's attack is led by Fernando Baiano, who has been troubled by a groin injury, and his Brazilian compatriot Hugo.

Shabab are built around a trio of foreigners: the diminutive Chilean playmaker Carlos Villanueva and the Brazilian forwards Julio Cesar and Jociel Ferreira.