Al Wasl boss Gustavo Quinteros has embraced the “very important” challenge presented by Al Wahda on Sunday when last term’s Arabian Gulf Cup final is repeated in the current edition’s group stage.
The nine-man Clarets held on to secure a famous 2-1 victory when the clubs met in March’s rollercoaster showpiece. This painful result extended an 11-year domestic trophy drought for the vanquished outfit, then led by Rodolfo Arruabarrena.
His successor – also born in Argentina, but whom chose to represent Bolivia as a player – will now hope to improve on last week’s goalless draw against promoted Ittihad Kalba when Group A kicked off.
“Al Wasl has a very important game with Al Wahda, which is one of the major teams in the UAE and has a great technical stability,” said Quinteros, 53, of opponents who won 1-0 at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
“Between the two teams, the Gulf Cup is very important for Wasl.”
The Cheetahs will be without centre midfielders Khamis Esmail and Ali Salmeen, who are on UAE duty.
Meanwhile, a familiar face will return to the dugout for Kalba when they host Ajman.
Ex-AC Milan midfielder Fabio Viviani, 51, is back for a second stint in charge of the Tigers. This follows the exit of Jorvan Vieira, 64, after just one Arabian Gulf League fixture – a 6-2 thrashing by expected title challengers Wahda.
“I did not stop following the UAE league during my time in Italy,” said Viviani, who previously won just two of 11 top-flight fixtures with the yo-yo outfit from August-December 2016.
Spanish forward Pedro Conde has hailed the convivial atmosphere at Bani Yas ahead of Dibba Al Fujairah’s visit.
Conde, 30, struck the equaliser in the First Division League champions’ 1-1 AGL opener at Fujairah.
“It has been like one family since my first moment with the team,” said August’s addition from Greece’s PAS Giannina.
Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic has refused to be drawn on reports that he is being considered as a replacement for struggling UAE supremo Alberto Zaccheroni, for whom the Football Assocation rallied behind on Saturday night.
Zaccheroni, 65, has come under increased pressure in the wake of Thursday’s woeful 2-0 friendly defeat against undercooked Trinidad and Tobago. The Italian has overseen a troubled build-up to January 2019’s Asian Cup on home soil – the Whites are winless in five matches and have scored just four times in 12 games overseen by him since his October 2017 arrival.
Legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate has already moved himself into position as a potential successor. But the candidature of last term’s Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double winner was also rumoured to be of interest to the worried UAE Football Association.
When quizzed about this talk on Saturday, a curt response was delivered by Mamic. “No comment,” he said.
This preceded a tweet from the UAE FA’s official account that declared no talks had been held with any other coaches.
It read: “The UAE Football Association denies what is being circulated in the media and social networking sites about communicating with any coach to take over for the the Asian Cup. We appeal to everyone to stand behind the Whites and not to disturb preparations for the championships.”
Mamic lifted five major trophies at Dinamo Zagreb from 2013-16, prior to a brief stint at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
Al Ain poached him in February 2017. He made history in 2017/18 when Al Ain – the UAE’s most-decorated club – were guided to a first-ever double of the nation’s premier competitions.
Zaccheroni’s current Whites squad will meet minnows Laos on Tuesday in Catalonia.
The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo signed a contract until the end of the Asian Cup – a tournament in which he must make the final.
Yahya Al Ghassani’s stellar impact at Al Wahda has been rewarded with a bumper contract extension until 2023, less than two months since his recruitment courtesy of game-changing new eligibility rules.
Al Ghassani, 20, has been a standout member of the group allowed to feature in the Arabian Gulf League during 2018/19 after November’s decision by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan that children of Emirati women born to foreign fathers will be able to compete in official UAE competitions for the first time.
The electric forward – who boasts a lineage from Tanzania – came off the substitutes’ bench to score on his top-flight debut in last month’s 6-2 thrashing of promoted Ittihad Kalba. Such exciting ability saw the Clarets announce fresh terms on Saturday.
“The management of Al Wahda extends the contract of the young player Yahya Al Ghassani for five years to support the team,” they tweeted. “We wish him the best of luck.”
Al Ghassani’s electric skills were honed in the academy of the defunct Al Ahli – now known as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club. But old eligibility legislation meant for him to play for them, he would have taken up a valuable slot in the foreign quartet.
The attacker also explored a move to Europe last summer, prior to linking up with 2017/18’s AGL runners-up.
Al Ghassani is now expected to be fast-tracked into the UAE Under-23 set-up.