Omar Abdulrahman absence is glaring as UAE preparations for Asian Cup continue apace

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(Twitter/@uaefa_ae).

Time is at a premium now for UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni after his penultimate training camp before January 2019’s Asian Cup began in Dubai on Tuesday.

A 28-man squad was selected by the tournament hosts for the get together at Nad Al Sheba, that also contains November 16’s friendly with Bolivia and November 20’s gala meeting with Egypt.

Here are the talking points:

IT’S ALL ON MABKHOUT

Just one man is left standing from the UAE’s ‘Big Three’.

Tears flowed last month when knee ligaments were torn by superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman. He’ll be lucky to kick a ball again in 2018/19, never mind the Asian Cup.

Persistent fitness problems at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club have seriously impinged World Cup 2018 qualifying’s global joint-top scorer, Ahmed Khalil.

Al Jazira hot shot Ali Mabkhout is the only talisman present. With nine goals in eight Arabian Gulf League games, he’s in decent form.

CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

The UAE’s travails in attack are well known – since Zaccheroni arrived in October 2017, only eight goals have been scored during 15 matches.

At the other end of the pitch, things also aren’t looking rosy.

In seven matches since last winter’s Gulf Cup, clean sheets were only kept against minnows Laos and Andorra.

Veteran Ismail Ahmed is creaking and youngster Khalifa Mubarak requires work. A recall for versatile Shabab Al Ahli defender Walid Abbas offers a potential cure.

MAKING THE BIG STEP

A youthful edge is present in Zaccheroni’s roster.

Al Nasr forward Mohamed Al Akbari is back in favour, while Jazira’s Khalfan Mubarak must pull the strings in Amoory’s – lengthy – absence. Pride of Abu Dhabi forward Ahmed Rabea and Al Dhafra loanee Saeed Jassem also get fresh chances.

Continued reward for a 2018 Asian Games bronze has come for skipper Ahmed Rashid, goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi, Sharjah midfielder Majid Surour and Jazira prospect Zayed Al Ameri.

Of this sprightly cohort, however, only seven 2018/19 top-flight goals have been scored. Mubarak accounts for four of them.

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