Al Ain turn to Under 21 manager to take charge of match against bitter rivals Al Ahli
Al Ain have asked the club’s Under 21 manager Josko Spanjic to take charge of their upcoming meeting with bitter rivals Al Ahli as their search for a permanent manager continues.
The club confirmed to The National on Tuesday they were in talks with two potential candidates to replace Zlatko Dalic, who resigned from his post following Monday’s 3-1 defeat to league leaders Al Jazira that left them seven points off the summit.
A club official confirmed contact had been made with the Uruguayan Jorge da Silva, once manager of Baniyas, and Al Nasr’s former Serbian manager Ivan Jovanovic.
The match this Saturday at Ahli’s Rashid Stadium between the second and third placed teams is the highlight of Round 16 of the Arabian Gulf League fixtures, and the club confirmed Croatian Spanjic would be at the helm.
■ Zlatko Dalic: ‘Thanks for three great years’
“We are in talks with a couple of coaches but still no agreement reached,” an Al Ain official said when contacted by The National. “Until then, our U21 coach will be in charge. He knows the players well and we believe he can handle the situation we are in.”
Al Ain have picked up just one point in the past three games, with Monday’s home defeat to Jazira prompting Dalic to resign immediately after the game.
Jazira travel to Sharjah in the early game Saturday looking to increase their lead over Ahli to nine points before their evening kick off.
Al Wahda will be severely depleted for their match against Al Dhafra on Thursday at the Al Nahyan Stadium as manager Javier Aguirre contends with suspensions to three key players.
Goalkeeper Rashed Ali (one match), Hungarian midfielder Balazs Dzsudzsak (four) and prolific Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue (two) all miss the game following their first-half dismissals in the 5-1 capitulation to Abu Dhabi rivals Jazira last week.
Sultan Al Ghaferi and Ahmed Rashed also serve one-match bans for accruing three yellow cards this season, and the Chilean midfielder Jorge Valdivia is still working his way back to full fitness following a long-term injury.
Aguirre though said he was confident those deputising could step up to the mark.
“We have many players who are performing well and they are in full readiness to seize this opportunity,” he said. “Of course, we’ll have to make a few adjustments and play to the strength we are left with. I’m still confident we can pull it off.
“After all this game provides opportunities to those vying for permanent spots in the line-up and I think that’s enough motivation.”
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