ABU DHABI // Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira head coach, has told his players they need to lift their game to an even higher level as they face the most difficult period of their season so far.
The Pro League leaders have played mostly teams in the lower half of the league in their six matches so far as they look to retain their title, with the notable exception ofAl Wasl, who were defeated 1-0 in Dubai when the two sides met.
Vercauteren accepted that his team were about to have to step up a level in their standard of play, especially compared to their recent matches against strugglers Emirates, beaten 4-1 last time out, and Ajman, who were unfortunate to lose 4-3 to the champions having been 3-1 ahead.
"We are ready for this difficult period, but that does not mean we will get results because you never know in football," said Vercauteren.
"We showed against Al Wasl that we can play in the big games as well, and we are aware about the quality of Al Shabab and Al Ain.
"They are going to be very, very difficult matches for us.
"My players will need to be at their highest level to beat these teams.
"So we need to raise our game for these special games, and that is the challenge for the coaches."
Jazira have scored 18 league goals so far, but it has been the seven conceded at the other end, including those three at Ajman, which have caused the coach concern.
"I am not completely happy with the defence. Against Emirates, the individual level was not what I wanted it to be," said Vercauteren, who added that he would like his back four to play a simpler game at times.
"Sometimes you have to just keep the ball and accept that a move is not going to finish with a goal."