x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Asian Champions League: Matias Delgado is Al Jazira's game changer

Before their Asian Champions League tilt, Al Jaish coach Razvan Lucescu says the return of Mathias Delgado will surely provide a lift for Al Ain, writes Amith Passela.

Matias Delgado has scored only four goals for Al Jazira this season but the Al Jaish coach says his real value lies in his assists. Jake Badger for The National
Matias Delgado has scored only four goals for Al Jazira this season but the Al Jaish coach says his real value lies in his assists. Jake Badger for The National

Although it takes a team to win, many games hinge on one player. Matias Delgado is such a player for Al Jazira, according to Razvan Lucescu, the Al Jaish coach.

Delgado was serving a one-match ban when the Qatar club defeated Jazira 3-1 in Doha last week and Lucescu believes the Argentine's return could give Jazira the added strength and motivation to win Wednesday's Asian Champions league return leg at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

"It will be … a game which will be totally different because I know Delgado is playing," said Lucescu, Jaish's Romanian coach.

He conceded the Abu Dhabi club, who sailed unbeaten through group play a year ago, have no margin for error.

"Probably, it would be the last chance for Jazira to have hopes and there will be this change, an important change with Delgado's presence.

"I think that Delgado is one of the most important keys of Jazira and, for sure, his presence on the pitch will change the attitude and style of the team."

Lucescu is not the first to notice Delgado's crucial role in supplying the club's attacking players.

The coach added: "The others have a lot of confidence knowing that he is on the pitch close to them, to inspire them. He is the key player from whom Ricardo Oliveira, Fernandinho and Ali Mabkhout would rely for the assists."

Delgado, 30, has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. His anticipation and judgement has been immaculate, and his technical skills are high. The Buenos Aires native not only can create but score, both in the run of play and from set pieces.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Jazira had never won the league or President's Cup until the 2010/11 season, when Delgado joined the side after four seasons with Besiktas, the prominent Turkish club.

With the Istanbul side he won two Turkish Cups and one Turkish Super Cup. From 2004/05 he played two seasons for Basle, scoring 58 goals in 113 matches with the Swiss club. Basle won the league in 2005 and 2006, and in the latter season Delgado was honoured as Swiss Footballer of the Year.

Since his arrival in Abu Dhabi, in August 2010, Jazira have won the league (2011) and the President's Cup twice (2011, 2012).

On Tuesday, Delgado played down Lucescu's praise and insisted Jazira were stronger as a team.

"At the end I would like everyone to talk about the 11 players who did the job for Jazira," he said. "We are going through a very bad period. We have been doing all the right things during the training but we haven't been able to translate all that in the matches."

Luis Milla, the Jazira coach, has come under pressure as the club continue to struggle under his leadership: they have one victory from nine games in all competitions, a win over Al Wahda in the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.

The Spaniard said another victory could change his team's fortunes and the outlook from the fans' point of view. "Perhaps, it may happen [tonight]," he said.

If Jazira win, and climb back into contention for the knock-out stages, Al Jaish's coach seems to believe Delgado will be a major reason why.


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