No Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman for Al Ain but Wahda on guard

The visiting captain Ismail Matar thinks a motivated bench and a packed crowd will make up for the missing star duo at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Al Wahda’s Ismail Matar says that Al Ain, without two important players, will still pose a strong hurdle for the league leaders. Shadi Malkawi / Al Ittihad
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ABU DHABI // Ismail Matar, the Al Wahda captain, said the absence of key players Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman will not make Al Ain any weaker when the teams meet tomorrow at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Gyan has been slapped with a two-match ban by the Asian Football Confederation after they reviewed the Ghana captain’s tackle on Mihai Pintilii of Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal’s during the Asian Champions League semi-finals.

He was sent off with 20 minutes left in the September 30 game.

Abdulrahman is recovering from a knee injury he suffered against Saudi Arabia in the semi-final of the Gulf Cup of Nations last month.

“They are key players at Al Ain and they will miss their services for sure, but their absence may not make any big difference because this team has depth,” Matar said.

“They have a strong bench and any one of them provided with the opportunity can come in and perform. These fringe players will want to impress the coach for a regular place. That motivation is enough for them.

“We also expect a packed audience, and such atmosphere can motivate the players from both teams. I would expect it to be an entertaining game and let the best team on the night win.”

Matar is also not 100 per cent, even after making his first start in 10 games in a 2-1 win over Al Dhafra four days ago. He was substituted in the 77th minute.

“I have recovered from the injury, but the issue was my fitness, which I now feel has reached a point where I can play the full 90 minutes, so looking forward for this classico match,” he said.

Wahda have injury problems, too, regarding Moroccan international Adil Hermach and Mohammed Al Shehhi.

“We still have 48 hours to see if they are fit enough to play, but even if they are not, we have 22 in the squad to choose the line-up,” said Jose Peseiro, the Wahda coach. “Al Ain are one of the favourites to win the league. Obviously, we are heading for a tough game, but we are not going to give up without a fight. We have had a good run so far, and hopefully, we can take this momentum forward.”

Wahda are undefeated in 20 league games, stretching from last January.

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