Al Ain will be without Asamoah Gyan for tonight's Pro League encounter against Al Shabab, after he played for Ghana despite carrying an injury.
The striker, this season’s top scorer, aggravated a thigh strain in the warm-up to Sunday’s African World Cup qualifier with Sudan, yet still featured in his side’s 4-0 victory.
Gyan returned to Al Ain this week, telling The National he would "hopefully" be fit in time for the Shabab start. However, the 24-goal forward will sit out the match, to the chagrin of coach Cosmin Olaroiu.
"He picked up an injury in a friendly match when preparing for the qualifier, but still played, made his injury worse and had to be substituted," said Olaroiu, who also has Omar Abdulrahman missing through illness.
“The risk of Gyan playing should not have been taken. I’m disappointed the Ghana officials took the decision when he was already suffering with an injury.”
Al Ain, the runaway league leaders, host Marcos Paqueta’s men this evening at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium, and will be intent on at least maintaining their eight-point advantage at the top of the table.
Olaroiu, though, expects a tough test against the club they narrowly defeated earlier in the season.
“Shabab are a good side with quality players, led by a coach with vast experience,” he said. “So the game will be very difficult, just as our previous meetings have been.”
For Paqueta, the match represents a chance to gain ground on the top four. His side currently lie fifth, five points behind Al Jazira.
“Al Ain come into the match wanting to maintain their lead, while we’re looking to close in on securing a top-four finish,” he said.
"We've got over the shock of our defeat to Ajman in the Etisalat Cup [semi-final] on Monday, although we were the better team. Luck was not on our side."
Kalba hope to retain momentum and move out of the danger zone
Kalba will attempt to forge ahead with their great escape when they host eighth-placed Al Dhafra tonight. Kalba are a point from safety, having last month secured a third victory of the season, and continued an improved run with a shock Etisalat Cup win against Baniyas.
“Beating Baniyas boosted the players’ morale, and the break in the league gave coach Ze Mario [left] the opportunity to correct mistakes made in the defeat to Ajman in the last round,” said Abdulla Ibrahim, a team official. Kalba have Gregory Dufrennes and Talal Abdulla available after injury. Anas Bani Yaseen returns for Dhafra.