UAE international Omar Abdulrahman will undergo a scan on Tuesday to determine the extent of a knee injury sustained at the weekend – an issue that was initially thought to threaten his 2019 Asian Cup participation.
The Al Hilal midfielder, the national team’s prize asset, was carried off during Saturday's clash against Al Shabab Riyadh after jarring his right leg when reaching for a pass in the fifth minute. He was soon pictured in tears on the Hilal bench.
The Saudi champions later posted a video on social media showing Abdulrahman on crutches post-match, with Abu Dhabi Sports reporting he had sustained a medium tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
However, as of yet there has been no official confirmation as to the severity of the injury. Abdulrahman was due to have a scan on his knee on Monday, but given the level of swelling, Hilal confirmed the X-ray would instead be carried out on Tuesday.
UAE supporters will hope the injury is not as bad as first feared, particularly with the Asian Cup taking place on home soil in less than three months’ time. The tournament, played in the Emirates for only the second time and first since 1996, runs from January 5-February 1, with Abdulrahman viewed as integral to his side's hopes of a strong showing.
The UAE, runners-up in 1996 and third at the most recent tournament three years ago, open the event with their Group A encounter against Bahrain on January 5, before they meet India and Thailand. The 2019 tournament has been expanded to 24 teams.
UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni therefore faces an anxious wait regarding Abdulrahman. The attacking midfielder, the 2016 Asian player of the year, seemed to be regaining somewhere close to his best form following a protracted move to Hilal this summer. Last week, he scored a fine equaliser in the UAE’s 1-1 draw in the friendly against Honduras in Barcelona.
Abdulrahman, 27, has a history of knee issues and twice underwent major surgery earlier in this career. A number of international teammates and former colleagues at Al Ain offered their support on social media on Saturday, with the UAE national team’s official Twitter account wishing Abdulrahman a speedy recovery.
On Sunday, the Football Association tweeted their gratitude to Turki Al Sheikh, the head of Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority, after he gave assurances that Abdulrahman would receive the best possible treatment to expedite his recovery.
Whatever the extent of the injury, it seems almost certain Abdulrahman will miss the UAE’s training camp next month. Zaccheroni's squad will reconvene in Dubai, where they aim to play three friendlies to continue preparations for the Asian Cup.
Opponents have yet to be finalised. The next get-together marks the fourth of five training camps in the build-up to the Asian Cup.