x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Peseiro targets top-four finish for Al Wahda

Abu Dhabi club gradually improving as season goes on.

Hamdan Al Kamali is among the players returning from injury for Al Wahda. Razan Alzayani / The National
Hamdan Al Kamali is among the players returning from injury for Al Wahda. Razan Alzayani / The National

ABU DHABI // After a poor first half of the season, a top-four finish in the Arabian Gulf League has suddenly emerged as a realistic objective for Al Wahda and their manager Jose Peseiro.

The Abu Dhabi club can take a major more step towards that goal if they can take three points from the visit of Sharjah at Al Nahyan stadium.

Mid-table Wahda are coming into the match off the back of successive victories over Baniyas and Al Ain. Their record over their past eight games stands as five wins, two draws and just one defeat, to Emirates.

“Our progress has been gradual but the results in recent times have been very good and encouraging,” Peseiro said.

“We had two excellent results in the last two games and are hopeful we can take the momentum forward.

“Sharjah as we all know are vastly improved side. They are just above us and a team that has conceded the least number of goals (16) in the league, so we can understand their strategy.”

Abdulla Al Noobi, the stocky midfielder, sits out of the game after collecting three yellow cards while the centre-back Hamdan Al Kamali returns after missing out the last match against Al Ain because of injury.

“We have a full squad to select now that all the players are back from lengthy absences due to injuries,” Peseiro said.

“With eight matches left in the league and with the full squad available our goal would finish the season strongly. There is still a realistic chance for us to finish in the top four.”

Sharjah have beaten Wahda in both their meetings this season, defeating them 2-1 in the league and 1-0 in the League Cup on November 14, a game which Peseiro watched from the stands before taking charge of the Abu Dhabi club.

“It is true we haven’t won against them in two games but that was a long time ago. A lot has changed from then and now,” Peseiro said.

“The fact they are above us in the table still makes them the better team on paper.”

Meanwhile, midfielder Marco Estrada has returned to Chile to undergo his rehabilitation following a knee surgery he underwent in Turkey three weeks ago.

Wahda’s summer signing from Montpellier, the French Ligue 1 club, was replaced by Adil Hermach, the France-born Moroccan international, during the January transfer window following the injury.

“The Chile FA has shortlisted him for the World Cup squad and their medical staff will take charge of his rehabilitation and monitor his recovery,” Abdulla Salem, the Wahda team manager, said.

“We are pleased to release the player as this would benefit us as well. Marco was very excited before he left.

“He will now be more motivated with the prospect of being named in Chile’s World Cup squad. We can only wish him a speedy recovery and to see him play in Brazil.”

Estrada has a three-year contract with Wahda and will be available for them next season. He left for Chile on Thursday.

apassela@thentional.ae

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