x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pro League: Luis Milla wants Al Jazira to keep momentum going

Previews:Al Jazira coach is hopeful his rested men are ready mentally to win all four games that remain.

Luis Milla, centre, has given his team some rest so they are ready to take on Dubai. Jake Badger for The National
Luis Milla, centre, has given his team some rest so they are ready to take on Dubai. Jake Badger for The National

ABU DHABI // Luis Milla faces a tough task in reviving his "exhausted" players as he seeks to take Al Jazira's winning formula forward when they meet Dubai away in the Pro League tonight.

The Spaniard has had only one day's training after the Abu Dhabi club's 2-0 victory over Tractor Sazi of Iran in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

"We gave the players a day off after the ACL match as they have had no rest with matches played every four or five days for the last four weeks," he said.

"We have had only one day to prepare for this game and that, too, was preparing them mentally. We have given them a lot of time to recover after a physical and energy-sapping match.

"Of course, we can take a lot of positives from our last two wins, in the league and the ACL.

"It took a while for these results to come. It certainly has relieved a lot of pressure but at the same time it is important for us to take this momentum forward."

Jazira defeated Kalba in the league and then avenged a February 26 defeat in Iran, in Milla's first match, by throttling Tractor Sazi at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Jazira now have three victories in 13 matches under the former Spain Olympic team coach.

Jazira are on 39 points and have dropped to fifth but Milla has not given up hope of finishing as runner-up behind the champions Al Ain.

"We want to finish the season on a high. We have four games left and we want to win them all, then see where we finish in the league," he said.

The coach also has a selection dilemma; the Brazilian forward Ricardo Oliveira, along with Khamis Ismail and Sultan Bargash, picked up injuries in the last game. "We haven't received the medical reports and cannot say the extent of their injuries and if they would be available against Dubai until the morning of the match," he said.

"It will be another tough but important game for us. Dubai are a pretty good side. They have quality in the midfield and the attack, and they are very good on the counter-attack."

Milla had left out the captain Ibrahim Diaky in the past three games, as well as the Brazilian forward Fernandinho in the last two line-ups, but insisted they were vital to his squad.

"They are very important players to me but I also believe that the reserves are as important," he said.

"For me, it is the best team on the day and the combination against the opposition we play that matter most.

"Everyone should perform at the same high level when they are provided with the opportunity."

Dubai are struggling in 11th and have won just four points from their past eight games. They return after a 3-0 drubbing from Al Ain, a result that clinched the league title for the Garden City club with four games remaining.

 

Baniyas v Al Dhafra
Baniyas will be looking to rediscover their winning ways when they return to action against Al Dhafra at home tonight following a defeat and draw in their past two games. A victory against Al Dhafra will keep alive their hopes of regaining the second spot from Al Ahli. Baniyas went down 4-1 at home to Al Ahli on April 15 before a 3-3 result against Ajman. Dhafra have also hit a purple patch recently, picking up 14 points from a possible 18 in their past six games to reach safety from the drop zone – drawing 3-3 with Al Shaab last time out.

Al Shaab v Al Ain
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, is warning against complacency when his side travel to Sharjah to play Al Shaab. “It would be very hard to motivate the players now that we have already won the league,” Olaroiu said of the relegation-threatened rivals. “We are aware of Shaab’s position and we respect their ambitions. Yet, we will never change our strategy and the approach, which is to win every game we play.” Al Ain play their final Asian Champions League group-stage match on Tuesday, at home to the Iranian side Esteghlal.

Al Shabab v Dibba Al Fujairah
Time is running out for the relegation-troubled Dibba Al Fujairah. They are struggling in second last position and would need a massive effort when they meet Al Shabab away. Shabab beat Lekhwiya of Qatar 3-1 in the Asian Champions League to revive their chances in the continental championship with one game left against Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan. A victory would put the Dubai club into the final 16 for the first time.
All games on AD Sports

apassela@thenational.ae

 

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