x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Jazira seek to keep their season alive in Champions League

The continental competition provides the Abu Dhabi club with one of two remaining chances of securing silverware this season. They play Esteghlal tonight hoping to make it three wins out of three.

Al Jazira hope to be celebrating a third successive Asian Champions League win tonight.
Al Jazira hope to be celebrating a third successive Asian Champions League win tonight.

Abu Dhabi // Franky Vercauteren, the former coach of Al Jazira, spoke about his team playing for four trophies this season. Now the Belgian has gone, and so have the club's chances in two of those competitions.

Vercauteren was dismissed the day after the 4-2 away win against Nasaf Qarshi, of Uzbekistan, in the Asian Champions League on March 21. Club officials said "he wasn't getting on well with the players."

Since then, Jazira crashed out of the Etisalat Cup in a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Al Shabab.

And their hopes of retaining the Pro League title have all but disappeared as they are in third place, 10 points behind the leaders Al Ain with five games left.

Caio Junior, their new Brazilian coach, is now focused on the Asian Champions League – they play Esteghlal in Iran tonight - and the President's Cup, in which they meet Sharjah in the semi-final on Sunday.

"The next two games are very important for us to keep of hopes alive on winning a trophy," Caio Junior said.

He said Esteghlal are the toughest team in their ACL group and would have a partisan crowd behind them.

Subait Khater, the UAE international midfielder, says the change of the technical staff has little to do with the team's results.

"It could have happened under any coach," he said. "Everybody is trying their best for the team. There is no such thing as one team has to win all the time.

"It doesn't happen anywhere in the world. The important thing is we are playing as a unit and still persevering to win whatever titles we are playing for."

Jazira have won both their ACL games this season to top their group while the Iranians are in second place.

"If we can return with a point from this away game it would be a good result," Khater said. "A win would certainly put us in a strong position to go beyond the group stage, and that is our first objective in this championship."

Ricardo Oliveira, the Brazilian, said he was looking forward to playing in front of a packed stadium in Iran. "I love the awesome atmosphere in the stadiums in Iran, lively and packed," he said. " … You can't get more inspired playing in front of such passionate fans. It is a big game and I want to score for my team."

Jazira will be without Lucas Neill, the Australian defender, who serves a one-match ban for two yellow cards. His place in the line-up may be filled by Sami Rabea or Saleh Basheer.

Meanwhile, Baniyas travel to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Al Ittihad, the two-time ACL champions. Ittihad have made an ominous start to the 2012 campaign with seven goals in wins over Pakhtakor and Al Arabi under their new coach Raul Caneda.

They are two points clear of Baniyas at the top of the Group B.

apassela@thenational.ae

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