x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wahda turn focus back to league

Josef Hickersberger says he is not looking beyond Al Ahli in the Pro League despite closing in on Asian Champions League qualification.

While qualifying for the Asian Champions League remains a high priority for the Al Wahda coach Josef Hickersberger, the Austrian said he is not looking beyond his side's next match against Al Ahli in the Pro League tonight (8pm). Wahda beat Al Karamah last weekend in Syria and face the Indian champions Churchill Brothers in a West Zone play-off match on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, with the winners securing a berth in the group stages of the Champions League.

But tonight's trip to Dubai to take on the defending champions is just as significant for the Abu Dhabi side as victory would move them to within two points of leaders Al Jazira. "This match against Ahli is as important for us as the following game," said Hickersberger. "We cannot afford a slip. We have to keep getting three points in every game and make sure we don't allow Jazira to increase their lead.

"So I will be looking for another match like the one we played in Syria. We did really well there to return with a win and I hope it will be the same against Ahli. "It is going to be one big game for us." While Ahli's title defence has proved disappointing so far, Hickersberger said he is not taking the champions lightly. "Ahli are the defending champions and they are always a tough team to play against," he added.

"They have struggled with injuries, but at full strength they are a team to beat. So there will be no complacency on our part and we will not make the mistake of looking ahead to the AFC play-off. "We are focused on getting three points. We are ready for the game and positive about the challenges ahead." For Ahli, Cesar, the Brazilian who returned to the club after being released at the start of the season, is expected to start against Wahda.

arizvi@thenational.ae