x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Depleted Al Ain try to keep focus

Al Ain will be without their coach Winfried Schaefer and Brazilian forward Andre Diaz for their Ajman encounter.

The Al Ain players will miss the presence of their coach Winfried Schaefer on the sidelines and the Brazilian forward Andre Diaz for tonight's UAE Etisalat Pro League round six tie with Ajman at the Khalifa bin Zayed stadium. Both, Schaefer and Diaz are serving two-match bans handed to them by the competition committee for their involvement in a brawl after the league game against Al Nasr on Thursday. Schaefer didn't want to discuss the punishments given to him and Diaz.

"The competition committee has taken a decision and I respect that. And this matter is now over," he said However, Schaefer believes those incidents will not have any influence on their focus to win three points. "We have had a decent start and are unbeaten so far and such incidents shouldn't distract us on the pitch," said the German. "I can tell you the Ajman game will not be easy. They are capable of raising their game."

The nine-times league champions will miss both Diaz and the injured Moroccan international Soufiane Alloude in the frontline. And once again they will be looking up to Jorge Valdivia to deliver for them. The Chile international has proved a tremendous signing so far and his sheer brilliance on the pitch has made him a target for most teams. And Schaefer has voiced his concern about the challenges on his influential forward. It was one such incident on the pitch that led to the brawl after the Nasr game.

The competition committee punished the Nasr goalkeeper Abdulla Mousa and mid-fielder Mahmoud Hassan Darwish with bans and fines. The Al Ain team had to pay up Dh20,000 as fine. Al Jazira and Al Wahda travel in two different directions with the hope of returning with full points. Jazira travel to the northern emirates for a showdown with Sharjah and Ahmed Abdulhaleem's men travel in the opposite direction for a clash with Al Dhafra, with whom they had lost both league games last season.

Abel Braga, the Jazira coach, has a full strength team at his disposal as the Brazilian Rafael Sobis returns from a one-match ban. And Abdulhaleem should be feeling more confident than the last season when they did not have a good start. apassela@thenational.ae