x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Reinforcement arrives but Baniyas are still short

Coach Gabriel Calderon may be forced to rush back Amer Abdulrahman for tonight's Asian Champions League game with Al Ittihad.

Amer Abdulrahman is looking to return to the Baniyas starting line-up when they host Al Ittihad in an Asian Champions League match on Tuesday.
Amer Abdulrahman is looking to return to the Baniyas starting line-up when they host Al Ittihad in an Asian Champions League match on Tuesday.

ABU DHABI // Amer Abdulrahman is in line for his first start in more than two months tonight as Baniyas take on Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia in the Asian Champions League.

The midfielder's return to full fitness will not only bolster his club, but will strengthen the Olympic team when they travel to the London Games in July.

Abdulrahman, 23, came on as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 away draw against Al Nasr in the Pro League last week and Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas coach, is optimistic the midfielder will be in his starting line-up.

"We have one more training session to decide on the line-up and I hope Amer will be one of them," the Argentine said.

"Amer has been training for two weeks since his return from injury. We got him to play in the second half against Nasr last week. He still has to reach full fitness but, with a few injuries to some key players, he may be in the line-up or may get on to the pitch at some stage of the game."

Defeat to Ittihad in Saudi ended the Pro League club's unbeaten record in Group B of the Champions League.

While the two-time champions are looking to complete their passage to the knockout round, Calderon insisted a good result would also increase their own chances of going beyond the group stage.

"We returned with a lot of positives from the away game against Ittihad," Calderon said. "We lost from a late penalty and that's a good result when you are playing against a team that has won the ACL two times."

However, Calderon has some selection problems for this game with the UAE internationals Yousuf Jaber and Haboush Saleh, the Oman international Fawzi Bashir and Ismael Bouzid of France facing late fitness tests.

"We will play the strongest available team because we are in a very critical stage in the ACL," he said. "A good result will increase our chances of going beyond the group stage, which is our objective."

Baniyas also play in the President's Cup final against Al Jazira, the defending champions, in six days' time. However Calderon has not paid much attention to that game.

"There is enough time for the cup final, but our task right now is to win this game and not think about the next game," he said. "The players are fine and focused on this game."

Raul Caneda, the Ittihad coach, was forthright on his aim to qualify as quickly as possible.

"We have an opportunity to qualify from this game and it would be real good if we can return with our mission accomplished," the Spaniard said.

"We have arrived with our full squad and we respect Baniyas. They played a good game with us but we will play to our strengths to win the three points."

Ittihad top the four-team group with nine points from three games. Baniyas and Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan are on four each with Al Arabi of Qatar on zero.

apassela@thenational.ae

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