x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE's Gulf Cup hero Omar Abdulrahman returns to Pro League side Al Ain

In other matches, Al Ahli visit Al Jazira, Al Shabab meet Al Wahda, Kalba host Baniyas and Al Wasl face Al Nasr.

Omar Abdulrahman is likely to be high on confidence. Pawan Singh / The National
Omar Abdulrahman is likely to be high on confidence. Pawan Singh / The National

Omar Abdulrahman is set to return to a hero's welcome from the Al Ain fans when they face Ajman tomorrow night.

The 21 year old underlined his growing reputation with an impressive series of displays that earned him the player of the tournament title at the Gulf Cup earlier this month as the UAE triumphed at the tournament in Bahrain.

Also set to return to club duties for the league leaders are national team teammates Mohanad Salem Al Enazi and Mohammed Ahmed, the defenders, and Dawoud Sulaiman, the goalkeeper.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, will not announce the line-up until the day of the match.

"The national team players have trained with the club team for only three days after being away for more than 40 days," the Romanian coach said.

"We can't have a game plan in place without the full squad, but we have tried a few things in the three days we have had them back in training.

And as such, we are still undecided if all of them would be playing against Ajman.

"For instance, Dawoud has not played a single game in more than 40 days and Mohammed Ahmed played as a centre-back when we use him as a right-back."

Al Ain will be without Asamoah Gyan, the Ghanaian who is playing for his country in the African Cup of Nations.

Olaroiu was not happy with the postponing of the round-14 games, scheduled for last Monday and Tuesday, which was a late decision made after the UAE's success in Bahrain, and believes the change to the schedule could hurt Al Ain in the second half of the season.

"We may have to play against Al Ahli at a later date and with the Asian Champions League scheduled from February we may be left with more tough games to play at the same time," he said. "This doesn't suit us. We have been preparing for the Ahli game and it would have been better had the games been played in the same order, than playing the round 15 instead of the round 14."

It was an opinion shared by Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, whose team play Al Shabab away first after the midseason break, when they had been due to play Al Wasl at home, originally.

Al Ain resume the title defence of the league in the second half on 34 points, seven more than their nearest challengers, Al Jazira.

Al Jazira v Al Ahli

The spotlight tomorrow at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium will be on Ricardo Quaresma, the Portuguese international, who is set to make his Pro League debut for Al Ahli.

They play Al Jazira, the two clubs hot on the heels of Al Ain, the league’s runaway leaders.

The former Porto, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea forward is expected to play a key role for his new club in the absence of Grafite, the Brazilian who is serving a six-match ban for elbowing the Al Dhafra defender Hassan Zahran in the face.

Ahmed Khalil, the young Emirati forward who was on target three times in his country’s successful Gulf Cup victory, is expected to partner Quaresma in the attack.

Quaresma, 29, replaced Achille Emana, the Cameroonian forward in the mid-season transfer window, as Ahli look to raise the pace of a season that started with a stunning 6-3 win against Al Ain but has since had five draws and one defeat from their next 11 games.

Jazira, after a poor start to the campaign, have made excellent progress of late, winning 20 points from a possible 24 from their last eight league games.

“We return to the second half of the league after a long break but it is important we take this momentum forward,” said Paulo Bonamigo, the Jazira coach.

They will be strengthened by the return of national team players Ali Mabkhout, Khamis Ismail, Abdulla Mousa, Ali Al Ameri, Ali Kasheif and Khaled Issa.

“We will try to play our strongest line-up,” the coach said. “Apart from Khamis Ismail, who has a little niggle in the leg, all those who were in the UAE’s successful Gulf Cup squad are available.”

Al Shabab v Al Wahda

Al Wahda will be boosted for tomorrow’s trip to Al Shabab by the return of Saeed Al Kathiri, Hamdan Al Kamali and captain Ismail Matar after their stint with the UAE team at the Gulf Cup. Eric Mouloungui, the Gabon midfielder, and Dino Djulbic, the Australian defender, are both due to make their league debuts.

Kalba v Baniyas

Relegation-threatened Kalba begin the second half of their league campaign at home against Baniyas with new signings Junior Felicio Marques, the Brazilian midfielder, and Edward Sadomba, the Zimbabwean striker, set to make their respective Pro League bows.

Al Wasl v Al Nasr

Having picked up two points from the last four games, Al Nasr will have to make a strong start to the second half of the league to get their title hopes back on track. They can take heart from their last three wins in the Etisalat Cup though when they meet Al Wasl in a derby game.


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