x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No time for new coach Luis Milla to prepare Al Jazira for Asian Champions League against Tractor Sazi

The Spaniard, who replaced Paulo Bonamigo at the weekend, is confident his side will adapt quickly ahead of their opening ACL game - but admits it will be a 'difficult' challenge'.

Luis Milla, the new Al Jazira coach, says it will not be easy to make big changes to the way the team play in a short period of time.
Luis Milla, the new Al Jazira coach, says it will not be easy to make big changes to the way the team play in a short period of time.

Luis Milla's appointment as the new Al Jazira coach four days before their Asian Champions League opener against Iran's Tractor Sazi raised many eyebrows.

Can the Spaniard prove his doubters wrong by pulling off a famous victory? The answer will come tonight.

It worked last year to a certain extent when Jazira dismissed Franky Vercauteren soon after the Belgian led them to a 4-2 away win over Nasaf Qarshi of Uzbekistan.

They appointed Caio Junior and the Brazilian led them to the last 16 by winning four of their five remaining games. Yet, it all ended in disappointment when they were beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, the eventual runners-up, after a 3-3 deadlock.

It was their best effort in four years in the continental championship, winning five of their six group stage games after managing just one win in 18 previous matches.

Milla was officially introduced as the new coach on Saturday after the club parted company with Paulo Bonamigo immediately after the Brazilian had led them to a 4-1 victory over Al Dhafra to close the gap on the leaders Al Ain to six points in the Pro League last Thursday.

"We are going in to the first game in a new competition and that's always difficult," Milla said at the time.

"We don't have too much time to prepare for the first game but we will start with something that we can adapt very quickly between the players and the coach.

"Here I am dealing with professional players and we will seek their assistance to go the best way forward in my first game in charge. We have made some study of our opponents and we will play to get a good result."

Ricardo Oliveira, the Brazilian forward, had a very successful showing in the ACL last year, topping the scoring chart with a dozen goals.

Milla will hope for a repeat of that feat from the former AC Milan striker who also tops the scoring chart at the club with 18 goals in 22 games in all competitions.

"I am working with professional players and they all know what the coach expect from them," Milla said. "I watched the Dhafra game. It was a good win and I will work on areas where we can improve further, make them better. It is not easy to make big changes in a short period but we hope it won't take long to make good results on the pitch."

Tabriz-based Tractor Sazi, the runner-up in the Iran Pro League, are one of two ACL newcomers in the group along with El Jaish, the runners-up in the Qatar Stars League one season after they had been promoted from the second division.

The Doha club face a daunting first test as they travel to the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh to face Saudi League champions Al Shabab, who are returning for a seventh crack at the continental title after they missed out on last year's tournament.

 

apassela@thenational.ae