x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Wahda are ready to match Baniyas in race for top

Coach Branko Ivankovic calls it an important derby against side that has won their last four matches.

Baniyas's Mohamed Ali Omer, right, greets Yousef Jaber. The team have won their last four games. Jeff Topping/The National)
Baniyas's Mohamed Ali Omer, right, greets Yousef Jaber. The team have won their last four games. Jeff Topping/The National)

ABU DHABI // With stability restored with an away victory, Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach is ready to try to stop Baniyas from extending their winning streak in the Pro League.

"This game has now become a big derby match because Baniyas is now on top of the table," the Croatian said.

"They have shown excellent performance to win the last four games. No team can be in this position if they are not good enough to be there.

"Having said that, I would like to say our philosophy has not changed. For us it is always win and only win. We will put ourselves 100 per cent on the pitch and to go level with Baniyas."

Wahda are on nine points after they bounced back from a 2-1 home defeat to Dubai to record a victory by a similar score over Al Shaab last week.

Ivankovic believes it was an excellent result for the morale of his players ahead of their meeting with Baniyas at the Al Nahyan stadium tonight.

The Croatian will stick with the attacking players he has used thus far, with Saeed Al Kathiri and Ismail Matar, the two Emirati internationals, in the middle and Papa Waigo (Senegal) and Marcelo Oliveira (Brazil) joining them in attack from the wings.

"Papa and Marcelo don't play in the classical wing positions," he said. "They have the freedom to move to scoring positions and inside the penalty area. They can change positions as and when required during the game."

Ivankovic will also have a full squad to choose from except for Mohammed Shaibah, the Oman international who will be out of action for at least another month.

Shaibah was injured during his country's 2-1 win over Jordan in the 2014 World Cup qualifier last month.

"It was just bad luck for us that he got injured," Ivankovic said. "He had been training with us only for two days and this happens when he goes to play for his country."

Shaibah moved to Wahda last season on a one-year loan from Al Wasl and the Dubai club released him for another year. He has yet to make an appearance for Wahda this season.

Baniyas, meanwhile, will again miss the services of Mohamed Zidan, the Egyptian international.

"He has started his rehabilitation but I am not sure if he is still fit enough to play," Jozef Chovanec, the Baniyas coach, said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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