x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jazira face a tough test against Ajman as Under 17 World Cup matches add to woes for coach.

Al Jazira coach Luis Milla. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Jazira coach Luis Milla. Satish Kumar / The National

ABU DHABI // Luis Milla said Al Jazira face a “challenging task” when his side face winless Ajman as Arabian Gulf League play resumes after a three-week hiatus.

Milla is quick to note that what he cites as challenges are not the same as excuses, however.

“This game has become more difficult for us because of several complicated factors,” the Jazira coach said.

“Firstly, we won’t have the home comforts as the game has been shifted to an away venue. The other issue is we have to start all over again as we go in to this game after a long break.

“We didn’t have the full squad in training, as some players were away on national duty and some are not available for this game because of suspensions and injuries.

“I am not trying to find excuses, but these are the actual facts.”

Jazira will play at Al Wahda club’s Al Nahyan Stadium because the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium is being used for Group A games in the ongoing Fifa Under 17 World Cup.

“Playing the home game in another venue, even if it is across the road, won’t give the players the home comforts. It is a mental thing, but we need even that one per cent advantage,” Milla said.

“When we start after a long break, we need to start everything all over again. Some of our key players were away on national duty and they rejoined the team only two days ago. We don’t know their physical and mental conditions. Again, this doesn’t help us in our preparation.”

Jazira will be without of Ali Mabkhout, who scored three goals in the UAE’s 4-0 thrashing of Hong Kong in an Asian Cup qualifier last week. He is serving a one-match ban for a red card issued against Al Shabab.

Ali Kasheif, the goalkeeper, and Khamis Ismail, the midfielder, both returning from national duty, have to pass fitness tests ahead of the match.

The good news for Milla is that Nelson Valdez, the Paraguay international who suffered a knee injury when Jazira went down to Al Wasl 3-2 on September 21 after having two players sent off, is likely to make the line-up.

“Valdez has recovered and did a great job getting back to his ideal fitness level and may play the full 90 minutes or participate at some point of the game to share the attacking responsibilities with Ricardo Oliveira,” he said.

Abdelaziz Barrada, the Moroccan international, is also back from national duty and is certain to be named in the line-up.

Ajman have yet to win a point in the league, but Milla does not judge them by those results.

“It is true they have lost all three games so far, but they have an excellent record in the League Cup, being unbeaten in four games. So we are prepared for a tough game,” he said.