ABU DHABI // Without a victory in seven games in all competitions, Abel Braga needs some good fortune when his Al Jazira side entertain Sharjah in tonight's crucial Pro League encounter at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Braga's men, chasing their first major domestic silverware, were at one stage in the running for all three trophies, front-runners in the league.
But they have suddenly found it difficult just to keep themselves in the Pro League title race after Al Ain swept up both the Etisalat and the President's Cups in the past two weeks. "In football, I believe in luck besides the good play," said Braga. "We played two good games, one with the Saudi club Al Ittihad in the Asian Champions League and with Al Shaab in the Pro League, but we couldn't score from the chances we created.
"The players did everything but score in the two games. We were unlucky. These things happen but it has gone a bit too far for us. I hope the good fortunes we enjoyed in the first half of the league will return in this game." Al Ahli, who deposed Jazira at the top of the league table, took advantage of Braga's team's slip to extend their lead to three points after a 3-2 home win over Al Wasl. Braga admitted Ahli will be hard to catch if his side do not claim three points from tonight's game. He said: "We are still in a good position with six rounds left but we can't afford to slip further. That would give Ahli a clear advantage."
Braga feels teams have started to adopt defensive strategies against his side. "The teams in the middle of the table are happy to share a point. I have no complaints on that, but it becomes so much harder to score. This is something we have been working on and hopefully we can score early to open the game." Sharjah went down 4-0 to Jazira in their first league meeting and travel under the new Portuguese coach Toni Oliveira, who has had moderate success since taking charge in February. They are at the bottom half of the league and would probably be happy with an away point.
@Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Jazira v Sharjah, Abu Dhabi Sports 1, KO 8.30pm