x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Valdivia returns to aid title bid

Jorge Valdivia has recovered from injury and will return to Pro League action tonight as Winfried Schaefer's Al Ain look to close in on the pace-setters Al Ahli and Al Jazira.

Jorge Valdivia has recovered from injury and will return to Pro League action tonight as Winfried Schaefer's Al Ain look to close in on the pace-setters Al Ahli and Al Jazira in the three-way tie for the title. The nine times league champions face Al Nasr at home and the Chile international feels they cannot afford to drop points if they want to keep their title ambitions alive. Valdivia, who was injured while representing Chile in a friendly against South Africa last month, says: "I have worked with the fitness team and feel I have recovered fully for the coming game."

Ain won just five points from a possible nine in the absence of their playmaker and Valdivia says: "I watched those games [Al Dhafra 2-2 and Al Shabab 0-0] in agony. I hope I can help my team to a good result." Meanwhile, Jazira will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing week when they travel to Sharjah to play Al Shaab. They surrendered their position at the top of the league to Ahli and went down to Qatar club Umm Salal in their Asian Champions League Group C opener on Wednesday.

The coach Abel Braga says: "There is pressure in both camps. We are playing a team fighting relegation and we are battling to stay in the title race. So it is going to be very tense." The Brazilian also using the game as part of his team's preparation for next week's ACL match with Esteghlal of Iran at the Azadi Stadium on Wednesday. "It is not only an ideal prep match but an important one to keep our league hopes alive."

Ivan Hasek's table-topping Ahli has a similar task when they take on city rivals Al Wasl in the other game. The Pro League leaders also suffered a first match loss in the ACL to the Uzbek club Pakhtakor and they travel to Iran for a meeting with Saba Battery on Tuesday. apassela@thenational.ae