x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Palestinians first up for Katanec

Srecko Katanec takes charge of the UAE for the first time tonight when the Emirates face Palestine in a friendly at the Al Wasl stadium.

DUBAI // Srecko Katanec takes charge of the UAE for the first time tonight when the Emirates face Palestine in a friendly at the Al Wasl stadium. It is the side's first chance to win back some pride following the 1-0 defeat to Iran in June in the final match of a disappointing 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign in which they picked up just one point from eight games in the final round.

Katanec's first task will be to reach the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, which should be something of a formality with two teams from the UAE's group, which also includes Uzbekistan and Malaysia, progressing. Beating Malaysia in January would guarantee a place in the finals. They beat them 5-0 in their first meeting in the group before losing 1-0 to the Uzbeks. Katenec's focus does not extend beyond the next few days, with a game against Jordan to come on Wednesday.

"This game with the Palestinians is not about whom we play or the outcome of the match. This game is about getting to know the players and to rebuild a strong squad," he said. "This is the first step and it provides me with the opportunity to have a closer look at the players." One of the areas Katanec will find hard to fill tonight is up front, with Faisal Khalil and Mohammed al Shehhi ruled out after suffering injuries in the Pro League.

Ahmed Khalil is with the UAE U20 team in Egypt, and striker Ismail Matar will have a fitness test "We need to play with what we have and my job is finding the solutions to the problems we currently face," said Katanec. "The aim of these friendlies against Palestine and Jordan is to try out some new combinations." @Email:apassela@thenational.ae UAE v Palestine, 6.30pm Abu Dhabi Sports TV