x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Hectic schedule for Al Jazira begins with Asian Champions League

Esteghlal clash is followed by President's Cup match with Baniyas and showdown for the Pro League title with Al Ain.

Jlloyd Samuel, right, and his Esteghlal teammates found themselves outhustled by Subait Khater, let, and Al Jazira when the clubs met in Tehran.
Jlloyd Samuel, right, and his Esteghlal teammates found themselves outhustled by Subait Khater, let, and Al Jazira when the clubs met in Tehran.

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira will unleash their rested and recharged heavyweight performers against Esteghlal on Wednesday night as the Abu Dhabi club bid to start a season-defining nine-day period by securing the solitary point needed for qualification to the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League.

Caio Junior's team can become the first UAE side in five years to reach the next round of the continental competition with a draw against Esteghlal, last season's runners-up from Iran.

Jazira welcome back Matias Delgado, Lucas Neill, Ricardo Oliveira, Ibrahim Diaky and Subait Khater who were all rested to varying degrees for the league win over Al Shabab last week. Jazira then face Baniyas in the final of the President's Cup on Monday before a title-deciding clash with Al Ain next Friday.

Jazira trail the leaders by eight points and know only victory will suffice if they are to have any chance of retaining their league title.

But Caio Junior is looking no farther than Wednesday night's match at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

"We want to get our ACL qualification to the next round out of the way first," Caio Junior said.

"And thereafter we can concentrate on the next two domestic fixtures. We planned our strategy for this game and rested some of our key players in the last Pro League game against Al Shabab."

Jazira became the first UAE club to win an ACL match in Iran with a 2-1 win at the Azadi Stadium earlier this month and are fancied to complete the Group A double.

"We respect Esteghlal," Caio Junior said. "A match is a match, and it is difficult to make any predictions. But this is the right time for Jazira to do something more than they have done in the previous years in the ACL.

"Most of them are the same players but they are more confident, particularly after the win in Tehran. They played more tactical than being physical and a passing game. They were amazing and I wish they can repeat it."

Parviz Mazloumi, the Esteghlal coach, said his side could cause Jazira a few anxious moments if they take their chances.

"We missed at least a dozen chances in our last meeting and they scored twice from their three chances," Mazloumi said.

"They came seeking a draw but returned with three points. I am not trying to take anything away from them but that's how it turned out to be for them. Jazira are one of the best teams in the UAE.

"They have good players but we saw some weaknesses from which we can take advantage of in this rematch. We still have three games left and good chances to go beyond the group stage even if we return with a point from this game."

Esteghlal will be strengthened by the return of the midfielders Mojtaba Jabbari and Andranik Teymourian from injury.

"These two players will make a big difference when we face Jazira again," said Mehdi Amirabadi, the captain.


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