Youthful Al Jazira are taking nothing for granted in the “close and equal” grandstand clash at out-of-sorts Al Ain, according to boss Marcel Keizer.
The latest instalment of ‘Al Clasico’ pits fifth-placed hosts desperately clinging on in the Arabian Gulf League title race against Marcel Keizer’s charging visitors who sit level on points with leaders Sharjah. Jazira’s case is further strengthened by a six-match top-flight winning streak, plus the fact it’s been five years since they were last downed at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“Our match against Al Ain will be close and equal,” said Pride of Abu Dhabi supremo Keizer, who guides the competition’s youngest squad. “The chances of victory will be present for the two teams because this game brings together two teams representing two of the biggest clubs in the league.
“Although Al Ain did not achieve the required results in the previous period, it will not have any effect on Thursday’s match.”
Meanwhile, Mahdi Ali faces a tough assignment on Friday to gain the first league win of his third stint in charge of Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club at near-neighbours Al Wasl.
The respected ex-UAE boss has claimed one point from two matches since he succeeded Gerard Zaragoza, although First Division League’s Emirates Club were beaten 2-0 in the President’s Cup. Their imminent opponents edged lowly Khor Fakkan 1-0 last weekend to give their new boss, former Fluminense tactician Odair Hellmann, his opening victory at the third attempt.
“We must continue with the same spirit and performance that we did in the previous match against Bani Yas [a 0-0 draw],” said Ali about this mid-table clash, even though Shabab Al Ahli were 2019/20’s pacesetters. “The players know the importance of winning the match and I trust them to make a good match.”
Sharjah welcome winless Ajman in the expected absence of former Benfica forward Caio, Goran Tufegdzic should possess plenty of inside knowledge when his Fujairah welcome the Khor Fakkan side he coached last term and Ittihad Kalba would go up to fourth, temporarily at least, with victory against bottom-placed Hatta. Al Nasr will aim to cement their title credentials versus Al Wahda and Bani Yas could gate-crash the top three if they down 10th-placed Al Dhafra.
MATCH-WEEK 12 FIXTURES
17:00 Sharjah v Ajman
17:00 Fujairah v Khor Fakkan
20:00 Ittihad Kalba v Hatta
20:00 Al Ain v Al Jazira
17:00 Al Nasr v Al Wahda
17:00 Bani Yas v Al Dhafra
20:00 Al Wasl v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club
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