Franky Vercauteren wants Salem Masoud to fight for his spot

Salem Masoud has been challenged by his coach, Franky Vercauteren, to win back his place in Al Jazira side as they prepare for their President's Cup match on Sunday.

Salem Masoud, left, is being challenged by his coach at Al Jazira, Franky Vercauteren, to fight to win his place on the first team back.
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Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira coach, has challenged Salem Masoud to win his place back in the Jazira team after giving the defender the all clear to return to first-team action.

Masoud has been out of action since he was involved in a car accident on November 29, along with Al Wahda's Fernando Baiano and a taxi. Both players spent time in police custody.

Jazira face Al Shabab in the President's Cup on Sunday at a the neutral venue of the Tahnoun bin Mohammed stadium in Al Ain.

Vecauteren said he would decide between Masoud and Sami Rubaiya for a spot in the team.

"From my side, I have done what I can do for him," said the Belgian, when he was asked about Masoud's future at the club. "There is no question about his future at the club. The club management has had an inquiry and he has been cleared to train with the team.

"Whatever happened is now behind us. He has been training with the team for more than a week. We have a big squad and everyone fighting to be in the first team line-up. I am encouraged by that. I will look for the best option between Masoud and Rubaiya when we pick the final squad."

The 22 year old's driving licence was suspended for three months and he was fined Dh 23,000 before being released from police custody. Masoud's last appearance for the club was in the 1-0 away win over Al Wasl in the league on November 2.

Jazira, who beat Wahda in the final of the President's Cup last season, suffered their first league defeat at the hands of Shabab 3-2 last week.

Vercauteren said Shabab were one of the teams that had made the biggest impression on him this season.

"They have not only got good individual skills, but they fight, are well organised, have the ability to hold on to possession and gel well as a team," he said.

Elsewhere, Martin O'Neill, the manager of English Premier League side Sunderland, plans to contact striker Asamoah Gyan, next week amid speculation he could be recalled from his loan spell at Al Ain.

The Ghana striker, 26, was loaned to Al Ain in August after becoming unsettled at the start of the season.

His departure, following those of Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck, left the club short of frontmen.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain manager, said last week that he expected Gyan to stay in the UAE for the rest of the season and, while the prospects of the forward returning to England is remote, O'Neill, who took charge of Sunderland two weeks ago, still plans to make a call out of courtesy.

"The chief executive gave me his number, I haven't had a chance to call it," O'Neill said.

"Really, it was just a matter of me introducing myself to him as much as anything else and finding out how the land lies."