Jazira face Al Ain in top-of-table clash, as the coach of the capital side says 'We're going to play to win, and I want to be as quick as possible in the semi-finals'.
Franky Vercauteren wants swift progress for Al Jazira in Etisalat Cup
ABU DHABI // Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira coach, is hoping to fast track his players into the knockout phase of the Etisalat Cup.
Jazira play Al Ain tonight in a top of the table game in Group A and a victory at the Mohammed bin Zayed stadium will virtually seal their passage to the last four.
Jazira are on 13 points, three more than Al Ain with four rounds left in the league stage of the competition.
"The game is important because we want to qualify for the semi-finals as quickly as possible," Vercauteren said.
"That means the sooner we can do that, the better it is. If you look how the games follow, I think first is playing second, and third [Dubai on nine points] is playing fourth [Al Wasl also on nine].
"So if you win you can take a big step to forward to the semi-finals and that's the target for the next game. That means we're going to play to win, and I want to be as quick as possible in the semi-finals."
Vercauteren said his players remained upbeat despite only taking seven points from their last six league games.
"We are still in the race in all three domestic competitions and the club's ambition is also to get good results in the Asian Champions League," Vercauteren said
Al Ain will be without Waleed Salem, their captain and goalkeeper, who has been suspended for three matches by the FA's Disciplinary Committee for verbal abuse of the referee in their 2-0 defeat to Al Nasr.
However, both teams will be missing players picked for both the senior national side and the Olympic team.
The national side are playing an international friendly against Uzbekistan on Sunday while the Olympic team are preparing for their qualifier against Iraq on February 5.
Also tonight, Al Wahda travel to Ras Al Khaimah for a meeting with Emirates.
Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, has lost eight of his players to the national teams.
He has also decided to rest all his three foreign players as well as Mutaz Abdulla, the first choice goalkeeper.
Al Nasr, who ended Al Ain's unbeaten run in the Pro League and were later fined Dh15,000 for the unruly behaviour of their fans, will be pushing on Ajman to get closer to earning a semi-final spot in a Group B.
Ajman are second on 11 points, two behind the group leaders Al Shabab. But Walter Zenga's side, who are on seven, could close the gap with four games left.