x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pro League: Al Wahda coach Branko Ivankovic wary of regulars Al Shaab

Previews: Ivankovic expecting a backlash from relegation-threatened rivals. Also Dhafra host Al Wasl and Kalba visit Al Ahli.

Branko Ivankovic remains cautious of Al Shaab backlash. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Branko Ivankovic remains cautious of Al Shaab backlash. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // Al Wahda may have already beaten Al Shaab on the four occasions they have met this season, but that does not mean they will take today's game lightly.

Branko Ivankovic, the Wahda manager, said: "It is not easy to win against the same team four times in one season and for this reason I am really scared of this game because everyone takes for granted the three points is already ours."

In their past meetings Wahda were 2-1 victors away in the Pro League; 6-1 winners at home and 2-1 away in the Etisalat Cup; and 4-1 winners in the President's Cup. Ivankovic, however, fears his opponents will be highly motivated to prevent a fifth defeat, and has taken measures to guard against this.

"We are also in the middle of the table while Shaab are battling relegation and they will be more motivated," he said.

"We are not without ambitions. We want to move up in the league as our aim would be to at least finish in the top four and win a ticket to next year's Asian Champions League.

"We already had a meeting with the players to talk about the seriousness of this game. We want all players to give more than 100 per cent in this game."

Ivankovic pointed to Al Ain's shock home defeat to the bottom team Dibba Al Fujairah and Al Nasr's away loss to relegation-threatened Kalba in the last round games in the league as warning signs.

"This is why I keep saying everything is possible in football and my players can learn from these results," the Croatian said.

Ivankovic will be missing Adel Al Hosani, the goalkeeper, who serves a one-match ban for receiving three yellow cards.

Mohammed Al Shehhi is still recovering from a knee injury while Hamdan Al Kamali, who suffered an ankle injury during training, and Saeed Al Kathiri, who has been down with flu, are doubtful.

Wahda have won four of their past six games in all competitions in the second half of the season, including a morale-boosting President's Cup semi-final victory over Al Jazira.

Michael N'dri, the Shaab forward, has scored in three of their four meetings against Wahda and Ivankovic says he is the "danger man" his players have to watch.

"He has scored against us three times and we will have a ploy to mark him closely."

"As a team, they are a pretty good side. They went down 3-1 to Baniyas in the last match and that was a very good effort if you have watched and analysed that game."

Al Dhafra v Al Wasl

Eid Baroot has urged his Al Wasl side to build on last week’s 4-2 victory over Ajman last week by gaining another three points with victory at Al Dhafra today. Baroot tasted victory in his first game in charge for Wasl since taking over from

Guy Lacombe for the remainder of the season, and he said: “Dhafra are a tough team to play against and we respect them. We know we can expect a difficult match from them. But if we can together as a team as we did against Ajman we can return with the three points.”

Al Ahli v Kalba

Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ahli coach, will miss Ricardo Quaresma and Luis Jimenez through injury, but says he expects nothing less than a win when they play the relegation struggling Kalba at home today. “We still have a strong line-up but need a strong performance to win against Kalba,” the Spaniard said. Ahli are also looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Al Shabab 2-0 and Flores said: “We will try hard to improve from that game and our ambition still remains to finish in the top three in the league.”


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