x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Papa Waigo ruled out of Al Wahda's President's Cup match with Al Shaab

The Abu Dhabi club face struggling Al Shaab in the last 16, while Al Ahli meet Al Dhafra.

Papa Waigo, the Al Wahda forward, is suspended for tonight's match against Al Shaab after picking up three yellow cards. Lee Hoagland / The National
Papa Waigo, the Al Wahda forward, is suspended for tonight's match against Al Shaab after picking up three yellow cards. Lee Hoagland / The National

ABU DHABI // Branko Ivankovic will once again have to contend with a now-familiar selection dilemma for Al Wahda's meeting with Al Shaab in tonight's last-16 President's Cup encounter.

The Croatian coach is already without several key players because of injuries and the latest to join the list is Papa Waigo, the Senegalese forward, who is suspended after accumulating three yellow cards, He will watch tonight's game, being played in Al Ain, from the sidelines.

Wahda's injury woes began even before the season had started when the new signing Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon international forward, was ruled out of the first half of the season with an ankle injury suffered during the team's training camp in Germany.

Mohammed Al Balushi, the Oman international, has not played a game after an injury he suffered during his country's 2014 World Cup qualifier against Lebanon.

Ismail Matar has not featured in the past three Pro League games after aggravating his knee injury in the 4-1 defeat to Al Nasr, and it has been the absence of the UAE forward that has hurt Wahda most, according to Ivankovic, who compares his captain to the league's top attacking players, Asamoah Gyan, of Al Ain, and Grafite, of Al Ahli.

Ivankovic said: "Of course he hasn't scored as many goals as Gyan and Grafite but his presence makes a lot of difference to Wahda.

"He may not score but he creates it for the others and he has the ability to change the game with a single move. So he is for us as Gyan and Grafite are for Al Ain and Ahli."

Wahda have lost four of their past five league matches to slip to seventh in the table, but they created several scoring opportunities in their most recent defeat, which came at the hands neighbours Al Jazira, 2-0, on Saturday.

"It is a new team with a lot of youngsters but that wasn't a problem. But then the injuries have been a concern," Ivankovic said. "However, we can't be looking for excuses but play with what we are left with. And, of course, this team has shown they can play against any quality teams like Al Ain and Al Jazira, although we didn't get the desired results."

The four-time league champions have a 100 per cent record in their two games against Shaab this season, winning their Etisalat Cup encounter 6-1 and a Pro League meeting 2-1, but Ivankovic said those results do not guarantee his side a win tonight.

"This is a new game and the past result will count for nothing if we can't win in the knockout format of this competition," he said.

Struggling Shaab parted with their coach Sergio Alexander after Saturday's 3-0 loss to Al Shabab, their 10th defeat in 13 Pro League games.

Tonight's other match sees Al Ahli and Al Dhafra meet again, just five days after they faced each other in the league.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw, thanks to a last-minute goal from Makhete Diop for Dhafra.

The game will be played at Al Wahda's Al Nahyan Stadium.

Five more ties are being played tomorrow, with the round being completed on Friday as Sharjah take on Kalba.

 

apassela@thenational.ae

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