x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Obaid braced for second

The Al Jazira captain and his troops face the grim reality of being runners-up for the second season in a row.

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira captain Saleh Obaid and his troops face the grim reality of being runners-up for the second season in a row. Obaid returns to the line up for tonight's final Pro League game with Ajman, after serving a two-match ban, knowing that his team's fate lies in the outcome of the Al Ahli-Al Shabab encounter, with Ivan Hasek's league leaders a point ahead of Jazira. The Jazira squad, the majority of whom played in the final day draw with Shabab last season when they missed the chance to take the league to a title play-off, are understandably not optimistic of lifting the trophy.

Obaid said: "It was different last season. We had to win with Shabab at home to force a playoff and went into that game with more hopes. This time we have to depend on the result of another game. And it's hard to expect any favours, besides Ahli are playing well at the moment. "All we can do is to try and win this game and hope a result in our favour from the other match. In a way, it is good that we know of our own destiny.

"We are mentally prepared for it and the expectations are not as high as last season. But you never know what to expect at the end. Only time will tell us." Coach Abel Braga rested most of his players for their inconsequential 2-2 draw with Iranian champions Esteghlal in the Asian Champions League in midweek, but gave his captain a full run after his ban. Braga said: "Our first priority is to win with Ajman and we'll see what happens thereafter. It may seem like an easy game but don't forget Ajman put is in this situation when they held us to a 1-1 draw at home.

"I have told my players not to think of the Ahli-Shabab match. If we are destined to win the league, so be it. If we win this match, it will be the first time ever the club would have collected 54 league points. That itself is an achievement." Ajman won two of their last three fixtures to escape relegation under the Brazilian Ze Mario, who replaced the Iraqi Abdul Wahab Abdul Qader, now in-charge of Sharjah. Ze Mario who is contracted by Ajman until the end of the season, wants to round off the campaign on a high. He said: "They are a strong team but we are not going to go down without a fight."

apassela@thenational.ae Ajman v Jazira, KO 7.50pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 2

If Ahli win - the title is theirs regardless of Jazira's result If Ahli lose or draw - the title is Jazira's as long as they beat Ajman If Ahli lose and Jazira draw - the title will be decided by a play-off