“I believe we have a very good squad. But we have many players with injury and fitness problems. We should try and bring them back to shape slowly through the Etisalat Cup. We have no other choice. For that reason, we have to play a different system because of those factors. When our strikers are fit, I have no doubt that they will score like they did before,” Wahda coach Josef Hickersberger said at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Wednesday morning.
Al Wahda renew their ‘UAE El Classico’ rivalry when they host President’s Cup winners and defending League champions Al Jazira in the Etisalat Cup at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Friday night. Al Wahda got the better of Al Jazira in the season-opening Super Cup on penalties.
Hickersberger said that a lot of factors have gone against his squad. “We had many problems. But it is normal. We could train only once a day during Ramadan. It is not about the players. The players are working really hard. It was also the climate. Now, it is better and we can increase the level of training. Many players are coming back from injury like Ismail Matar. He went through his rehabilitation very well. Now, he has to train more. He played towards the end in the Super Cup. And he played one half against Al Ain. That is the way we have to try and increase his fitness level. We also have Baiano, Hamdan Al Kamali and Basheer coming back from injury. We don’t know when Kamali can start training,” he said.
Hickersberger confirmed that his Brazilian hitman Fernando Baiano will play for the first time this season after recovering from injury. Baiano featured in training on Tuesday and also got match time in a practice game.
“Baiano will start the game for sure. We have had some good results in the last two weeks. We won despite having some problems. It is the same story but we have to deal with it. We have to work hard on our physical fitness. In the last 15 to 20 minutes of a game, we have had fitness problems. Some players couldn’t give their best. So, we had two training sessions on Tuesday and we also played a practice match. Fernando Baiano played the first 45 minutes and scored a goal. He is back in the team,” said Hickersberger.
Al Wahda also beat strong contenders Al Ain in the Etisalat Cup last Friday.
Hickersberger hinted that his bench strength will get a run against Al Jazira.“We also need to give some players a chance to play against good opposition so that they are better prepared when we face injuries or other problems. So, that is what we will do on Friday. We will try a different system,” he said.
He confessed that he didn’t watch the Al Jazira-Al Wasl game but added that he will have a look at the DVD. “I didn’t see their (Al Jazira) game against Al Wasl. I have to concentrate on my team. I have to work with 35 players and train them. It is a difficult task. But I have a good staff and good players. We will watch the DVD of the Al Jazira-Al Wasl game and I’m sure it will be interesting with score being 4-3. It won’t be easy for sure against Al Jazira. It will be difficult,” said the Austrian.
When we choose to look away for good, we are as complicit as those at the helm of this atrocity
Over 100 people in Lebanon have been reported killed during the hostilities started on October 7