x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Valdivia is a big loss for Cerezo

Al Ain could go top of Group A if other results go their way but Shabab are relieved by the absence of the Al Ain playmaker.

Jorge Valdivia, right, will be missing from Al Ain's side tonight when they take on Al Shabab in Riyadh.
Jorge Valdivia, right, will be missing from Al Ain's side tonight when they take on Al Shabab in Riyadh.

Al Shabab will be relieved Jorge Valdivia, the Al Ain playmaker, has not made the trip to Riyadh to face them in their Asian Champions League (ACL) group game tonight. Valdivia, who played a pivotal role in Al Ain's 2-1 home win over the Saudi side last week, will be absent at the King Fahad International Stadium as he serves a one-match ban.

A win tonight will see Al Ain go three points clear of Shabab and top of Group C should Pakhtakor lose away to Sepahan. But they know their progress to the knockout stage could be hindered by the Chile midfielder's absence. "We will miss Valdivia because he is such an important player for us," said Toninho Cerezo, the Al Ain coach. "But his absence should also not be a reason for us not to return with a good result. We still travel with a strong squad."

Valdivia had a hand in both goals against Shabab as Al Ain became the only Pro league's side to win a match in the first three rounds. Al Jazira are the other UAE club in action tonight, although Abel Braga, the coach, has signalled his intentions are to guide the club to domestic success in Sunday's Etisalat Cup final against Ajman as he looks to rest several key players for the visit of Al Ahli.

The Saudi giants, who thrashed Jazira 5-1 in Jeddah last week, travel to the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi looking for their second win in Group A, while Braga's side are bottom with just one point. Rafael Sobis and Tony, the Jazira strikers, are likely to be given the night off, while Ali Kashief, the goalkeeper, and Abdulsalam Jumaa, the midfielder, are both suspended. "We still have a small chance but let's face the reality," said Braga. "The ACL is tough and with one point from three games, it is very hard to put all our resources on it and lose everything.

"Our chances could have been better had we won the first game with Al Gharafa. It is a game we didn't deserve to lose. Nevertheless we will try with changes in the line-up. Sometimes it can work." Sergio Farias, the Ahli coach who led the Korean club Pohang Steelers to ACL glory and third place in the Club World Cup last year, said last week's romp would have no bearing on tonight's match. "We won't judge Jazira from the previous result," he said. "They are a strong side and if they are planning to play with their reserves, we can expect a tougher game, because the reserves will put in more effort.

"Usually, we expect a backlash from a side that had suffered a big defeat and we are prepared for it." @Email:apassela@thenational.ae Al Shabab v Al Ain, 9.45pm Al Jazeera Sport 1,