The champions of Asia will grace the fields soon as the 17th edition of AFC Asian Cup kicks off on 5th January at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The Group A match between hosts UAE and Bahrain will make sure that the tournament sets off to a good start after some glamorous off the field events.
UAE enters the tournament as the favourites from the group to go to the next round. As hosts, the team would enjoy good support from its spectators and will be confident of repeating their previous Asian Cup finish - third at Australia in 2015. Though coach Alberto Zaccheroni wouldn't face much trouble progressing to the next round, threats from India and Thailand will have to be dealt with care. After the opening fixture, UAE will again be on field on 10th and 14th against India and Thailand respectively.
Bahrain will be the team who can pull off upsets in the group. Though they do not hold an impressive ranking, the team has been spectacular in its preparation for the continental championship, playing a number of international friendlies. In their last 3 games, Bahrain has scored 10 goals without conceding any. In 2015, Bahrain couldn't go past the group stage, as they had to finish below Iran and UAE. But, things look different under Miroslav Soukup with the Reds well prepared for the stiff competition from the other three sides. Getting into the knockout stages would be their aim this year. After UAE, Bahrain will play Thailand on 10th and India on 14th.
The 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup - the biggest so far, will be opened in the grandest possible way. The opening ceremony has been planned to be a never-before experience with live on-pitch music performances from three of UAE's most celebrated musicians - Hussain Al Jassmi, Eida Al Menhali and Balqees Ahmed Fathi. Around 600 performers from around the world will come together to display a show that will tell the story of the tournament's slogan, Mansour.
A number close to 300 million viewers from different parts of the world are expected to watch the opening ceremony. The celebrations at the Zayed Sports City Stadium will be opened with the Cup theme 'Bringing Asia Together'.
The show, produced by the same group behind the opening ceremonies of UEFA Champions League final 2014 and UEFA European Championship 2016, is expected to be a treat to watch.
UAE v Bahrain: Match Information
Date: 5 January 2019
Kickoff: 9:30 PM IST | 8:00 PM Local Time
Live Stream: Star Sports Network and hotstar.com
Venue: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi
UAE v Bahrain: Team News
UAE's notable absence in the tournament will be star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman. The 27-year-old has been ruled out of the tournament with an ACL tear. Khalid Eisa will be the first choice at the goal for the hosts. Walid Abbas would be leading the backline with his experience, while Ismail Al Hammadi take charge of the midfield. UAE's goal scoring machines will be the two strikers - Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil.
Bahrain would be dependent on their attackers' goal-scoring abilities. The attacking third would be the area, Bahrain would want their game to be at. Sayed Shubbar Alawi will be the custodian in-charge when Waleen Al Hayam will be at the core of the defence. Abdulwahab Ali Alsafi would the playmaker to Abdulla Yusuf Helal at the finishing end.
UAE v Bahrain: Probable Lineups
UAE: Khalid Eisa, Walid Abbas, Fares Juma Al Saadi, Ismail Ahmed Mohamed, Mohamed Ahmad Gharib, Ismail Al Hammadi, Majed Hassan, Amer Abdulrahman Abdulla, Mohamed Abdulrahman Alraqi, Ali Mabkhout, Ahmed Khalil
Bahrain: Sayed Shubbar Alawi, Waleen Al Hayam, Sayed Redha Isa, Ahmed Abdulla Ali, Ahmed Mubarak Bughammar, Ali Jaafar Madan, Abdulwahab Ali Alsafi, Sayed Dhiya Saeed, Komail Hasan Alaswad, Abdulla Yusuf Helal, Sami Mohamed Alhusaini
UAE v Bahrain: Form Guide
UAE v Bahrain: Head-to-Head
UAE vs Bahrain: Key Players
Ismail Al Hammadi would be the key man in the UAE lineup. The midfielder has been representing the national team since 2008 and has played 94 matches. He has scored 14 goals in the UAE colours and has been a constant threat to the oppositions UAE face. Hammadi would again be an important presence for UAE.
Abdulla Yusuf Helal will bear the goal scoring responsibilities of Bahrain team. The 25-year-old striker has 40 international caps and scored 5 goals. The East Riffa forward has played good part in Bahrain's good attacking form recently. This would make Helal Bahrain's key player.
UAE vs Bahrain: Predictions
There is no doubt on UAE being the favourites to win the match. However, Bahrain has been in outstanding form and is sure to give the hosts some hard time. But still, with so many factors being in favour of UAE, Bahrain making an upset might not be seen in this fixture.
Predicted Score - UAE 2:1 Bahrain