x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Asian Champions League preview: Al Jazira and Al Shabab are still fighting

The battle for second in Group A is not over for Al Jazira in the Asian Champions League while Al Shabab need a win over the Group B leader to remain in the hunt, writes Amith Passela.

Al Jazira striker Ricardo Oliveira was the top scorer in the ACL last year with a dozen goals when Jazira made it to the last-16 round, but the Brazilian hasn't scored in four games in the continental championship so far. Lee Hoagland / The National
Al Jazira striker Ricardo Oliveira was the top scorer in the ACL last year with a dozen goals when Jazira made it to the last-16 round, but the Brazilian hasn't scored in four games in the continental championship so far. Lee Hoagland / The National

Ricardo Oliveira has urged Al Jazira fans to get behind the team on Wednesday night as they aim to keep their hopes alive in the Asian Champions League (ACL) when they meet Tractor Sazi of Iran.

Jazira recorded only their second victory in 12 matches under manager Luis Milla when they beat Kabla in the Pro League on Friday.

"I know my colleagues and their feelings in the dressing room," said Oliveira, the Brazilian forward. "They have been livid when we had a poor result, but that's all behind us.

"This is the game we want to win and I promise our fans to come down and be behind us. We will show everyone we can still win."

Jazira are bottom of Group A, with two points, but Tractor Sazi are only just ahead, with four, behind Qatar's Al Jaish (5).

Al Jaish host runaway leaders Al Shabab, of Saudi Arabia.

"We still believe in our qualification to the round of 16," Oliveira added.

"The most important thing is to keep our focus, do our best and believe in ourselves that we can win this game. Everyone in the team are aware how important this game is for us."

Oliveira was the top scorer in the ACL last year with a dozen goals when Jazira made it to the last-16 round, but the Brazilian hasn't scored in four games in the continental championship so far.

"For me, as a player, there are good and bad times. I know it is a very difficult period for me. I will draw strength from all the setbacks and so would my friends on the pitch," he said.

"I believe in my team and myself that we can still finish the season on a high. We have a final [the Etisalat Cup against Ajman] to play and, of course, the ambition to go to the knockout round of the ACL."

Jazira are coming off the back of their first win in the Pro League under Luis Milla and only their second victory in 12 games in all competitions.

"It is very difficult to come out of the situation we were in at the moment and the victory over Kalba will certainly motivate the players," Milla said.

Antonio Oliveira, the Portuguese coach of Tractor Sazi, knows it is approaching a must-win situation for both teams, saying: "One of us can die at the end of this game."

In Group B, the Al Shabab will be trying to cling to their slim hopes of qualifying for the second round when they host group leaders Lekhwiya.

Marcos Paqueta's men have one win from their four games, against Saudi club Al Ettifaq, but victory over the visitors from Qatar will put them firmly back in the qualifying frame. Paqueta, however, believes "fatigue" will be an issue once again with his team.

The team played Al Wasl on Saturday and faces a rematch on Thursday, and after a gap of three days, they are meeting Lekhwiya.

Saturday, they face Dibba in the Pro League, then leave for Uzbekistan for a Champions League match against Pakhtakor on Wednesday.

"Then we return to play a very important game against Al Wahda on Sunday, the semi-final of the President's Cup," he said. "So it is a little difficult for the players, but we are not offering that as an excuse. We will go and fight hard, and try to get a positive result."

Additional reporting from Ahmed Rizvi

sports@thenational.ae

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