x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bonamigo happy with squad depth at Al Jazira

Suspensions and compassionate leave give opportunities for players on the fringes of the club for the match with Al Wahda.

Ricardo Oliveira, right, will miss today's match. Pawan Singh / The National
Ricardo Oliveira, right, will miss today's match. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Paulo Bonamigo is confident his reserve players will rise to the occasion when Al Jazira take to the pitch at Al Wahda tonight, in the capital derby, without three of their key players.

Ricardo Oliveira, Jazira's leading scorer this season, with nine goals, is in Brazil following the death of his mother and will return tomorrow, while Salem Masoud and Subait Khater will miss the game through suspension after collecting three yellow cards.

"Ricardo is a high-class performer and any team that has a player of his quality will miss him," Bonamigo said. "But we cannot count on him alone for this game but look for others to perform for a good result.

"The first game we lost against Al Nasr was very hard. That game put the players under pressure, but since then we have recovered well. We have now got the balance back and the results are showing now."

After losing two of their first four games, Jazira have been on the mend, winning 18 points from their next eight games through five wins and three draws. They are currently third in the standings with 24 points, one behind Al Ahli and seven points back of the defending champions Al Ain.

Bonamigo, however, is confident his team can still challenge. "We are only seven points behind Al Ain and we have the entire second half of the league after Wahda," he said. "So it is possible to win the league at this stage for us."

Wahda are sixth on the points table with 18 points and have struggled with consistency. Their season has been erratic, with regular swings between fine performances and capitulations.

Branko Ivankovic, the Wahda coach, reckons the inconsistency is due to a lack of experience in his squad.

"This is a young and new team and they showed they have the quality to play against any team," he said. "We had a good game against Al Ain, although we didn't get the result we wanted. Games like this will certainly give the players a lot of confidence and motivation. It is just they need some time to convert these performances to success."

Ivankovic, however, knows his players will not be lacking in motivation for tonight's game to gain the bragging rights in the capital.

"This game gets special attention because it is the city derby," he said. "As a coach, for us every game is the same, we want to win three points. But there are some games that are more interesting and more attention given, especially for the fans, like this one against Al Jazira.

"This is the last game of the league's first half and we want to show our fans that we have done well at the halfway stage of the competition."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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