x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Al Jazira face 'must-win' clash with Al Shaab as Bonamigo sets sights on top four

The Al Jazira coach has targeted a place in the top four by the halfway stage of the Pro League after a patchy opening period to the season.

Al Jazira head coach Paulo Bonamigo.
Al Jazira head coach Paulo Bonamigo.

DUBAI // Paulo Bonamigo, the Al Jazira manager, has described this evening's game at Al Shaab as a "must win" for his team as the Brazilian targets a spot among the top four by the halfway stage of the Pro League.

Winners of the league in 2011 and the President's Cup last season, Jazira have failed to live up to expectations this campaign because of patchy performances.

Starting with a loss at home to Al Nasr, they were beaten at Al Dhafra and failed to down Dubai last week. They are currently fifth in the table with 18 points, behind Al Ain (25), Baniyas (22), Al Nasr (21) and Al Ahli (19).

"This is a must-win game for us as we want to be among the top four by the end of the first half of the league," Bonamigo said. "It will not be easy because by this time all teams have played a lot of matches and have improved.

"If you take Shaab, they have played two very good matches. They were unlucky not to win against Al Dhafra after taking a 2-0 lead and against Al Ain, they played another excellent game. So they are definitely on the up, but we need to win this match to stay with the top teams.

"We still have hopes of winning the title and we need to get closer to the top teams. That will be our focus in the three upcoming matches."

While their goalkeeper Ali Kasheif, the national team stalwart, and the defence have done a good job, conceding the fewest goals, 10, in the competition so far, Jazira have had problems in attack. None of their strikers feature among the 10 top goal-scorers in the league.

Ricardo Oliveira has managed six and he is No 11 on the list. The whole team have scored 18, which are 24 less than Al Ain's tally. Even Shaab have scored two more.

"The defence has done a good job till now," Bonamigo said. "The attack is still lacking the edge, but I hope they will click in this game against Shaab."

Shaab, who qualified for the Pro League through the play-offs after finishing third in Division One last year, had made a promising start to their campaign, but have struggled to keep the momentum going.

Winning two of their first three league games, they have managed just one point from their last seven matches and currently occupy the 12th spot with seven points.

Their battling performance in the 2-1 defeat at defending champions Al Ain in the last round, however, has given the team a confidence boost, according to Shaab's Lebanese midfielder Hassan Maatouk.

"We did not get the result we would have liked, but we played at an excellent level," Maatouk said. "It is important to show the same fight against Al Jazira.

"We are well aware of Jazira's situation and we know their players are also determined to improve their position in the competition, especially after the draw against Dubai, but there is a great desire in our team to put an end to this run of poor results in the league."

Live: 4.45pm, Abu Dhabi Sports & Dubai Sports

arizvi@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE