Abu Dhabi: Al Wahda coach Laurentiu Reghecampf is confident that his side can get the AFC Champions League campaign back on track when they take on Qatar’s Al Duhail SC in their Group B fixture at the Shaikh Zayed Sports City Stadium on Monday. The action starts at 6.5opm local time.
Al Wahda had suffered a humiliating away defeat to Lokomotiv Tashkent in their opening fixture — their heaviest Champions League defeat but that was sans five of their key players.
For the clash against Al Duhail, they will be fielding a full strength side including their star Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue, who missed the opening clash against Lokomotiv.
Though the loss against the Uzbek club was shattering, they come into the contest at the back of a resounding 5-1 win against the top notch Al Ain to seal their place in the semi-finals of the Arabian Gulf Cup on an aggregate score of 7-2.
“This a very important game for us as the first games we lost with so many goals. We were not at all happy with the result but we are looking forward. I’m sure we will have a positive result tomorrow and my team will have a good game,” said Reghecampf in the prematch press conference on the eve of the encounter.
“Apart from Mohamed Barghash, who is out with injury, all the players are available for this crucial clash. I hope after the game against Al Ain, the boys are eager to do well.
“We are taking game by game. We want to do well in all the tournaments we figure in but you have understand that it is hard on players to play back-to-back matches. So we also have to make sure we safeguard the players and don’t risk injuries. Sometimes we have to take calls in the interest of players and not think which tournament they are playing,” added Reghecampf, whose team’s seven previous opening home games in the AFC Champions League group stage have brought mixed results, with two wins, three draws and two defeats being racked up since their debut in 2004.
“We are aware of our opponents and they are a difficult team. They are first in Qatar and every game they have scored three to four goals. It means they are good. I have told a few things to my players but main thing is to focus on our game and win,” asserted the Romanian coach.
Tagliabue was of the view that the mood in the camp is upbeat despite the setback in the opener. “The mood is good because we have lost the match after an unbeaten streak of 17 plus games. It was a strange game and I think it will not happen again. It is past now and we are ready to take the three points tomorrow,” said the Argentine, who is also the leading scorer of his team in the Arabian Gulf League (14 goals).
Meanwhile, Al Jazira will be looking to continue their winning form when they play away against Saudi’s Al Ahli at the King Abdullah Sports City. That action starts at 8:10pm local time.
Al Jazira, despite failing to get out of both the 2016 and 2017 group stages, made a strong statement early with a 3-2 win against Weshley Sneijder-led Qatar’s Al Gharafa at home.
Goals from Brazilian Romarinho, Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Al Hashmi in the opener showed that they are very much looking forward to making an impact in the tournament. They will be more determined especially with their title defence in the local league all but over and having crashed out of the Arabian Gulf Cup quarter-finals with loss to Dibba Al Fujairah on Thursday.