x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Braga accepts break is for the best

Al Jazira and Baniyas will be hoping to confirm their positions as the top two teams tonight before the Pro League takes another break because of the national team¿s preparation for the Asian Cup in Qatar from January 7 to 27.

Al Jazira and Baniyas will be hoping to confirm their positions as the top two teams tonight before the Pro League takes another break because of the national team's preparation for the Asian Cup in Qatar from January 7 to 27.

The league resumed on December 12 after a six-week pause to give the national team players time to prepare for the Gulf Cup in Yemen and the Under 23 team for the Asian Games in China.

The league will not resume before the third week of January, and perhaps later if the national team has a good run in Qatar.

It may be a disruption, but most of the coaches agree it is unavoidable. Abel Braga, the Jazira coach, said: "When there are as many as five players from our team on national duty, obviously it would be better for us to play when they return. The long breaks don't help any team but there are no other solutions."

Jazira play Dubai, the team lying third last in the table. Braga, however, assumes nothing, as his team seeks its first league title.

"I keep saying it again and again, that there are no weak teams," he said. "We need to play to our true potential against every team. We have lost the league with some poor results against the so-called weaker teams and the players are aware of it."

Recent results would seem to bear out Braga's observation. In the past 10 days, Kalba claimed a 4-1 victory at Al Ain and Dubai have won twice to move within a point of perennial challengers Al Ain. Jazira's closest rivals, Baniyas, have a stiffer task when they travel to Dubai for a showdown with Al Ahli.

"We are taking one game at a time not really thinking in terms of winning the league just yet," said Lotfi Benzarti, the Baniyas coach. "We definitely want to maintain our good position in the league and that makes our task very clear, though.

"We are not really worried about the opposition. We play to our potential and that's what we will do against Ahli. They are definitely a strong team and dangerous side."

Al Wahda, the Pro League champions, play Al Dhafra at home and will be looking to get their title defence back on track after the 2-1 away defeat to Baniyas, which have left them fourth, 11 points behind Jazira.

apassela@thenational.ae