Sebastian Tagliabue has insisted Al Wahda are keen to add more silverware to the club’s trophy cabinet at the Arab Club Championship, although he is making domestic issues the pre-season priority.
The Clarets take on Algeria’s NA Hussein Dey in their opening Group A game tonight in Cairo – where local sides Al Ahly, Zamalek and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, as well as Wahda – are expected to be among the favourites.
Wahda kick off at 19:30 UAE time at Al Salam Stadium, with Egyptian giants Ahly taking on Jordan’s Al Faisaly in Group A’s later kick-off.
Prolific striker Tagliabue has declared his President’s Cup holders would love to become the first UAE team to win the tournament – back after a four-year hiatus – but claims his eyes are firmly set on a mouthwatering Super Cup clash on September 15 with Arabian Gulf League champions and fierce Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira.
“Of course when we play in any competition we want to win it, but we must not lose the objective, which is to arrive in the best way to the Super Cup,” said Tagliabue, 32.
“We are just starting pre-season and we will have only 10 trainings when we play the first game. It’s a cup so it should be to good to get minutes on the pitch after training hard. But I repeat, the most important game in this time is the Super Cup.”
Wahda could be back in Egypt for that Super Cup clash, played between Jazira and Al Ahli last season, with the UAE season’s traditional curtain-raiser possibly set to again be played in the Egyptian capital.
Today’s game will see Romanian Laurentiu Reghecampf take charge of his first Wahda game and Tagliabue has been impressed with what he’s seen of his new coach in the early weeks of his reign.
“The coach is very interesting, he is similar to Javier Aguirre in that he likes to apply pressure and to play attacking football,” added the affable Argentine.
“He’s very serious and shows us he likes to work professionally. The first week of pre-season was very good, we didn’t train so hard, it was more about adapting to being back, but we have been training with intensity in the second week.”
It is hard to gauge how far Wahda can go in the tournament, with today’s game the first run-out for the players, while Reghecampf is without the likes to veteran striker Ismail Matar and all-action midfielder Tariq Ahmed, while Mohamed Al Akbari, Ahmed Rashid and Mohammad Abdulbasit are also missing after their exploits with the UAE Under-23s at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers.
“There is a shortage of players,” admitted Reghecampf, the former Hilal and two-time Steaua Bucharest coach.
“The team had gathered shortly after a long vacation and we will try to avoid injuries. The reasons are known for the Olympic players who have matches with the team, while Ismail Matar and Tariq Ahmed need to rest after their return from the UAE first team.
“We have come to Cairo to try to make good quality matches and we use the tournament as preparation to provide a good level for the new season.”
Hussein Dey, who finished seventh in Algeria’s Ligue 1 last season, qualified for the tournament as 2015/16 Algerian Cup runners-up. Coach Nabil Neghiz says his side have not had the best preparation ahead of the tournament but feels they have as much chance to qualify for the semi-finals – with the winners of each of the three groups progressing as well as the best runner-up – as their opponents.
“We came in difficult circumstances, our team did not find the time to prepare but we are happy to be in our second country, Egypt,” said Neghiz.
“Our chance to qualify is equal to Al Faisali, Al Wahda and Al Ahly. The result of the first game is very important.”
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