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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Rodolfo Arruabarrena: Al Wasl prepared for 'tough game' at struggling AGL champions Al Jazira

Abu Dhabi club stormed to the title last season but have won just once so far this season, but Al Wasl are flying at the top of the table. 

Rodolfo Arruabarrena takes his high-flying Al Wasl side to struggling champions Al Jazira this weekend. Tom Dulat / Getty Images
Rodolfo Arruabarrena takes his high-flying Al Wasl side to struggling champions Al Jazira this weekend. Tom Dulat / Getty Images

Al Wasl manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena has warned his players not to take Al Jazira lightly ahead of the Arabian Gulf League leaders’ visit to the struggling champions on Friday.

Jazira stormed to the league title last season, setting numerous records in the process including most points (68) and games won (22) in the professional era.

However, the Abu Dhabi club have endured a disappointing start to the current campaign having won just once from their opening four fixtures to sit ninth in the table.

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Meanwhile Wasl, who finished runners-up and nine points adrift of Jazira last season, are flying high and share top spot with Al Ain after winning three and drawing one of their first four games.

A win for Wasl on Friday would extend their lead to nine points and provide a major blow to Jazira’s title defence. Conversely, a win for Jazira will close the gap to just three points and thrust the champions back into the title race.

It means, even at this early stage of the season, there will be plenty to play for at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium on Friday.

“Jazira may be going through a lean period but they are still a very good side with quality in every line,” Arruabarrena said.

“We have had some tough early games and have done pretty well to be where we are at the moment. It’s a good start but the league is a long one and we need to keep producing the same level or even better at every game.

“This game against Jazira is another tough one. Obviously we want to return with three points.”

Al Wahda, too, will be looking for three points when they host Hatta on Thursday aiming to bounce back from their first defeat of the season.

New manager Laurentiu Reghecampf enjoyed the perfect start with Wahda, winning his first three games in charge before going down to Wasl last time out.

Wahda welcome a Hatta side coming off a morale-boosting first win of the season, and Reghecampf has said his players are prepared for a tough game.

“Judging by their last two games, Hatta is a vastly improved side,” the Romanian said. “Our aim will be to win the three points regardless of the challenge Hatta will throw at us. We were unlucky not to return with a point against Wasl. We played a good game but didn’t achieve the desired result.”

Al Ain travel to Emirates on Saturday and manager Zoran Mamic is expecting his side to build on their great escape against Ajman last weekend when the Garden City club fought back from two goals down to win the game 3-2.

“The players showed real character to score three unanswered goals in the second half in the win over Ajman,” Mamic said. “I think we can take a lot of positives forward from that game. Emirates are similar side but we need to take control of the game early to relieve the pressure as we did against Ajman.”

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, currently trailing the joint-leaders by one point, conclude the weekend’s action with a trip to 11th-placed Sharjah.

FIXTURES

Thursday
Dibba v Al Dhafra, Fujairah Stadium (5pm)
Al Wahda v Hatta, Al Nahyan Stadium (8pm)

Friday
Al Nasr v Ajman, Zabeel Stadium (5pm)
Al Jazria v Al Wasl, Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium (8pm)

Saturday
Emirates v Al Ain, Emirates Club Stadium (5pm)
Sharjah v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Sharjah Stadium (8pm)

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