Walter Zenga, the Al Jazira coach, will have to deal with absent players due to national duty and injuries as his side look to secure a spot in the semi-finals in the League Cup.
Walter Zenga’s Al Jazira line-up is in a state of flux
Ali Kasheif the goalkeeper, Ali Mabkhout, and Khamis Ismail are in the UAE squad preparing for the Asian Cup qualifiers against Hong Kong, on Friday, and Vietnam, four days later.
Joining them on national duty are Salim Ali, Salim Rashid, Hamad Al Hammadi, Sultan Al Suwaidi, and Saif Al Miqbali in the UAE Olympic team for a training camp in Oman.
The other worries for Zenga are the injuries to the Paraguay international Nelson Valdez, the midfielder Subait Khater and the right back Khalid Sabeel, who all have to pass a fitness test this morning.
Salem Masoud and Yaqoub Al Hosani face lengthy spells on the sidelines following operations, this past week, in Germany.
“We have to play with those available and we won’t take the absence as an excuse for a poor result,” Zenga said. “We will not name the line-up until the day of the match because we need to see how many of the injured players would have recovered fully. Only those who are at 100 per cent will play.
“Baniyas are strong opponents and they, too, will have some players absent in their line-up. They play an offensive game, and we will give them the respect they deserve but we will play to win the three points, as we do always.
“I have told my players to respect every opponent. When you respect, whoever we play, we can be more focused on the pitch and play with conviction.”
The Italian, who replaced Luis Milla at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium last month, had a frustrating first game in charge when Jazira squandered a 2-0 lead to share a point with Dubai in the Arabian Gulf League.
They showed character in their next game, against Al Ain in the League Cup, to come from a goal down and score three times in the last 10 minutes to win 3-1.
A win tonight will guarantee Jazira a semi-final spot from Group A.
Zenga is on guard against complacency. He stressed the importance of that win but warned his players not to get carried away by one result against the league champions. “We must not think too much of the past results,” he said. “It is a new game and we need to start all over again.”
Baniyas’ confidence will have taken a hit after three defeats in a row. Al Nasr ended their unbeaten run this season in the league in a 4-3 thriller two games ago and they went down 3-2 to Al Ahli in the next match. They were beaten by Sharjah last week in the League Cup.
The hosts will have some key players absent because of injuries and national duty, including Carlos Munoz, the Chile international, who has joined his national team for the friendlies against England, on Friday, and Brazil, four days later.
Ajman v Al Wasl
Ajman need a win over Al Wasl to boost their chances of defending their title. Ajman are second, four points behind the leaders Al Dhafra, with one game left in Group B. Al Ahli are one point back and Al Nasr two, but both have two games to play. The top two in the group make the semi-finals.
Al Shabab v Emirates
Eid Baroot, the Emirates coach, has not given up hope of making the semi-finals. Emirates are three points off a last-four spot, with two games left. “Our chances of going beyond the group stage look slim as we need to depend on the results of the other games. Nevertheless, we will try,” the Emirati said.
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