Team GB vs. United Arab Emirates: Key Battles to Watch in Olympics Clash
If Great Britain thought that Group A would be a nice warm-up to a medal placing, they were sadly mistaken.
Senegal did not prove easy pickings for a British side that provided more questions than answers in their opening game. A lack of real conviction and leadership was evident, and it was no huge shock when Moussa Konate levelled inside the final 10 minutes.
The UAE are built of the same gritty, resistant mould, and only a vastly improved display will be enough to grab a much needed three points against a team who gave Uruguay a big scare.
And don't for one minute think a partisan Wembley crowd will have a significant factor, there are plenty of important games in big stadiums back in Asia with regular sellouts in Pyongyang (40,000) and Tehran (100,000).
Here are the important battles Team GB must win on the pitch....
Ismail Matar vs. Jack Butland
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The UAE lead striker and captain certainly showed he knows where the back of the net is during their opening game defeat to Uruguay.
The underdogs comfortably matched Luis Suarez's Uruguay in large periods of the game through their counter-attacking skills led by Ismail Matar.
The 29-year-old looked dangerous throughout the game and was given plenty of the ball when in the attacking third.
Jack Butland will have to have a better game if he is to keep the Al Wahda playmaker quiet.
He was a lucky boy when gifting a glorious chance to Sadio Mane after a woeful clearance, but recovered well in the second half, pulling off two quality saves to save GB's blushes in their first Olympic game in 52 years.
The Birmingham City stopper was understandably nervous in what was the biggest game of his young career to date, but he will have to be on his game for all 90 minutes because players like Matar will not give you a second chance.
Ryan Giggs vs. Abdulaziz Hussain
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Probably Team GB’s best player against Senegal, Giggs looked at home on the big stage, and why shouldn’t he?
Giggs could well be given a more advanced role by Stuart Pearce after the surprise inclusion of Danny Rose at left-wing.
It was a bamboozling decision by the head coach, but many are getting used to his strange ways after opting not to include David Beckham in his final squad.
Giggs was the main outlet for all good things British on Thursday, but will be best remembered for his outspoken criticism of the "heavy tackling" of the Senegalese.
Although at times they were slightly over-exuberant, it wasn’t anything too dissimilar to the majority of tackles in a Championship or League 1 game in England.
And the Welshman could well be up for more of the same as he comes up against the tough-tackling right-back Abdulaziz Hussain.
The 21-year-old produced a well-rounded display, keeping Liverpool’s Sebastien Coates and Luis Suarez at bay on more than one occasion.
Hussain does not take any prisoners in his approach to tackling, and Giggs better be ready to take a few more knocks before the day is out.
If the youngster does not get booked in the first thirty minutes, the flying Welshman could be in for a very difficult afternoon.
Tom Cleverley vs. Abdelaziz Sanqour
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If it wasn’t for injury, Tom Cleverley would surely have made England’s Euro 2012 squad.
But Roy Hodgson’s loss is GB’s gain and it's great to see the talented youngster back in competitive action following his injury prone season.
Pearce deployed the Manchester United starlet as the most forward man in the midfield three.
Although comfortable on the ball, the 22-year-old rarely threatened that defense splitting pass everyone witnessed in the EPL this season.
It may have taken a good 90 minutes for Cleverley to get back into match action before we see the best of him.
More invention will be needed against the UAE, and the man in charge of shutting down any such thought will be Abdelaziz Sanqour.
Equally at home in defence or midfield, Sanqour was asked to play the holding role by coach Mahdi Ali.
The Al Sharjah youngster did plenty of good work in their opening defeat to Uruguay although his positioning could have been better for their second goal.
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old should prove to be a great distraction for Cleverley, and it will be up to the United man to show his real quality and make a telling impact.
Daniel Sturridge vs. Mohamed Ahmed
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Daniel Sturridge looked a shadow of his former self against Senegal and was understandably subbed at halftime for Marvin Sordell.
The striker has been working his way back to full fitness following viral meningitis.
Whether or not Pearce gives the Chelsea man another chance remains to be seen, but I suspect he will, given the striker’s performances for Chelsea this season.
Sturridge was a big reason why the Blues finished the season so strongly and was often the man relied upon to score the crucial goal despite the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres being seen as the senior men.
It’s very doubtful whether the Danny Rose experiment will continue for the UAE game as I expect GB to go back to two up front.
Bellamy floats more into the channels, giving Sturridge an excellent chance to dictate the game from a central position.
The man given the task of stopping him will be Mohamed Ahmed—a man not known by many, but one who can be effective if allowed to dictate from the start.
Ahmed is already on a yellow card and may be slightly more cautious going into the game. Sturridge needs to take charge early on and show his class.