x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Braga pushing players to finish season undefeated

Al Jazira manager tight-lipped over how much longer he will be around.

Al Jazira couch Abel Braga.
Al Jazira couch Abel Braga.

ABU DHABI // After completing the Pro League and President's Cup double, Abel Braga, the Al Jazira coach, has challenged his players to become the first UAE side to end the season unbeaten.

Jazira have four games remaining, starting with tonight's home fixture with Kalba at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, and the Abu Dhabi side could finish the season by extending their unbeaten league run to 30 games stretching back to February 14, 2010.

"It is hard to motivate the players after winning the league, yet I want to see them finish unbeaten," Braga said. "We are up against a team that is fighting relegation. They are a pretty good side and it is a big game for them. We are aware they would come all out to win against us. I will play all my main players and want to see them extend our unbeaten record to 27."

Braga's three-year contract with Jazira expires next month and he is not revealing whether he will be returning to Brazil or staying at the Abu Dhabi club.

"My future with the club will be known before the Al Shabab match [on May 28]," Braga said. "I have always said that Jazira is like my second home, but my job with them has to be decided by them."

Phil Anderton, the Jazira chief executive, will have been impressed by Braga's work in the transfer market. His three foreign players have been instrumental, particularly Ricardo Oliveira who rejoined the club in January.

"Ricardo Oliveira played a big role after re-joining the team," Braga said. "He was a real good addition in the second half of the season, scoring important goals against Al Wasl, Al Wahda and Al Dhafra.

"Matias Delgado and Bare played big roles in the second half of the season. They took the pressure off [Ibrahim] Diaky, because everyone depended on him.

Braga also praised the Emirati players for their contribution to Jazira's double success, naming Ali Kasheif, the goalkeeper, and Subait Khater, the midfielder, as top contributors.

Elsewhere, Al Ahli have been stripped of two home games by the FA disciplinary committee because of unruly fan behaviour during a 4-0 loss to Al Ain on May 8.

Ahli's "home" match with Al Wahda on May 28 has been shifted to the Al Nasr grounds. Their first home match of next season also will be played at a neutral site, the league said.



Additional reporting by Paul Oberjuerge