The Emirati football club Al-Wahda were the last to qualify in Group E. Group E is the group where India’s first champions league participants FC Goa are placed. Two-time ACL runner-up and 13-time Iranian champion Persepolis, 9 time ACL participant, and 8-time Qatari champion Al-Rayyan are the other two teams in Group E. Al-Wahda qualified for the champions league by defeating Iraqi side Al-Zawra’a 2-1 in the qualification play-off. Abdul-Zahra gave the Iraqi side the lead in the 46th minute but Al-Wahda battled their way back through Omar Khribin in the 62nd minute and completed the comeback 15 minutes later through Emirati striker Khalil Ibrahim.
Based in Abu Dhabi, Al-Wahda compete in the UAE Pro League. The club was founded in 1984 and is owned by Diab Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They finished the 2019-20 season at 5th place and are in 8th place in the ongoing 2020-21 season of the UAE Pro League. The 4 time UAE Pro League champions have appeared in 12 Asian Champions League editions. Al-Wahda’s best-ever finish in Asia’s elite club competition was in 2007 where they reached the semi-finals. 2020 Edition of the AFC Champions League was suspended in March due to the pandemic and was later set to resume at Qatar and Malaysia in October. Al-Wahda were supposed to fly to Doha for their remaining Group A Fixtures but unfortunately, they could not travel due to positive Covid-19 cases. Al-Wahda were considered to have been withdrawn from the champions league and all matches played by them were considered null and void.
Managed by former Ajax gaffer Henk Ten Cate, Al-Wahda would look to impress in the upcoming edition of the Asian Champions League. Their primary target would be to get out of Group E and progress further into the competition. In his second stint with the Abu Dhabi-based outfit, Henk Ten Cate will focus on achieving success as he did in the 2016-17 season with Al-Jazira by lifting the UAE Pro League title. The former Barcelona and Chelsea assistant manager even gave a tough fight to European heavyweights Real Madrid in the FIFA Club world cup in the same season.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Omar Khribin (Striker)
This exhilarating Syrian striker signed for Al-Wahda only just recently. The 27-year-old has made an immediate impact in the colours of Al-Wahda by scoring 6 goals and providing 2 assists in just 8 appearances. Omar Khribin has linked up really well with Slovenian striker Tim Matavz and Emirati winger Ismaeil Matar to form a formidable attacking trio. Omar Khribin has 18 international goals in 45 caps for Syria and has played for the likes of Saudi League giants Al-Hilal and Egyptian top-flight side Pyramids FC. The 2017 Asian player of the year is really a player to watch out for in the upcoming edition of the Asian Champions League.
Ismaeil Matar (Left Winger)
The experienced Emirati winger came through Al-Wahda’s youth system and has been a loyal servant to them ever since. After joining the Al-Wahda senior team in the 2002-03 season Ismaeil Matar has only moved out once in his entire career. He moved out on loan to Qatari giants Al-Sadd and returned to his parent club after a short tenure. Matar has scored 123 goals for Al-Wahda in 439 appearances and has been part of 3 out of their 4 UAE Pro League title-winning campaigns. Matar has also been a great servant for the UAE National Team with 133 caps and 36 international goals to his name. Now 38, Ismaeil Matar is still going strong, He has scored 7 goals and provided 8 assists in 20 games for Al-Wahda this season in the UAE Pro League. His experience and leadership is key to Al-Wahda’s success in the upcoming Asian Champions League.
Tim Matavz (Striker)
The sturdy Slovenian striker Tim Matavz is Al-Wahda’s lethal weapon in attack. The former PSV Eindhoven and Augsburg center-forward is currently the top scorer for Al-Wahda in the UAE Pro League with 9 Goals. The 6 ft 2 striker has represented Slovenia in U18, U19, U20, and U21 youth levels and has 38 caps for the Slovenian senior national team. Tim Matavz has scored 123 goals from 340 games in his club career so far and will look to add more goals to his tally in the upcoming edition of the Asian Champions League.
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