Al-Ettifaq boss Gerrard has fingers crossed for Moussa Dembele return versus Al-Ittihad
AL-MAJMA’AH: Al-Ettifaq manager Steven Gerrard hopes to have key striker Moussa Dembele back from injury for the club’s next Roshn Saudi League fixture at home to champions Al-Ittihad.
The international break will allow Dembele, who has been out injured since he netted in the defeat to Al-Fateh at the beginning of October, extra time to recover from a small operation on his knee.
Al-Ettifaq have scored only three times in five games since then – with their last two fixtures, at home to Al-Raed and away on Saturday to Al-Feiha, ending in 0-0 draws.
And Gerrard also hopes to have the former Fulham, Celtic, Lyon, and Atletico Madrid striker available for the big Roshn Saudi League match against Al-Ittihad – led up front by Karim Benzema – on Friday, Nov. 24.
Gerrard said: “I think it’s obvious we’re missing a center-forward if you’ve looked at our last three or four performances.
“Moussa is always going to be missed and I’m hoping that if the next week or 10 days go really, really well, then he possibly could be involved in some capacity in the next game. If not, he won’t be far away from returning after that.
“It’s not going to be a long time, but we need to be patient and make sure the problem is healed and he gets the right rehabilitation.”
The Englishman, whose side are seventh in the league table with 22 points after 13 matches, described the goalless draw at Al-Feiha as “two points dropped.”
Gerrard, whose side were also without former Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson for the game, added: “We missed Henderson, sure, because he has brought assists to our game this season. Moussa Dembele has brought goals and assists. We certainly missed those two in terms of the quality we have shown previously in the final third.
“A similar pattern has been happening in recent games where we’re not finding enough quality in the final third.
“Defensively we had one or two issues but in the main we’ve kept another clean sheet. In possession we are getting into some good, interesting areas on the pitch but our final pass or shot and quality in the final third is missing at the moment.”
Al-Feiha manager Vuk Rasovic noted that his side were unfortunate not to beat Al-Ettifaq after creating some good chances, with Henry Onyekuru acrobatically volleying over from close range.
Fashion Sakala hit the post and saw a one-on-one opportunity saved, and Anthony Nwakaeme hit the top of the bar from close range just minutes from time.
Rasovic said: “We played very well defensively and offensively but unfortunately, we didn’t score. We had three maybe four very good moments – but that is football.
“I liked the way we played and what my players did on the field. We had big confidence on the ball and that is something that we are working on – we are working to try and improve and be better.
“We love to control the ball. We have players who love to play and be on the ball. We need more moves in the final third, but we need more time to work on that. We need more confidence in finishing. But game by game I think everything will come,” he added.
Al-Feiha, who are eighth in the table with 16 points, play their next league fixture on Saturday, Nov. 25 when they travel to Al-Fateh, who are two places and eight points above them.