Al Wahda coach Jose Peseiro has targeted a place in the 2015 AFC Champions League as his side travel to Al Shabab this evening.
The Abu Dhabi club are unbeaten in their last five Arabian Gulf League games, with that run putting them in contention for a top four finish this season.
Wahda arrive in Dubai fifth, and while they are still nine points off their hosts in second, they are only two points off Sharjah above them and five away from Al Jazira in third.
“This match is important to us,” Peseiro said. “In this period, we are as close to joining the four top in the league and the AFC Champions League.
“The competition is bound to intensify until the last round. Al Shabab, Al Jazira and Sharjah are the closest, but the competition will be strong. And do not forget Al Nasr, Al Ain and Baniyas, as well as Al Dhafra, this makes it a strong competition.
“All the teams are still in the competition, but we wish the very least to finish fourth and we hope to play in the Asian Champions League.”
Shabab saw their challenge for the league title flounder last week with a shock defeat at Dubai. Peseiro does not think that result will have any affect on this evening’s game though.
The Portuguese coach is without defender Hussain Fadel for the clash and has doubts over the fitness of Ismail Matar.
Edgar, Adeilson and Carlos Villanueva have all been in fine form this season for Al Shabab, with the two Brazilian forwards hitting 22 goals between them.
Elsewhere, Al Dhafra host Al Shaab looking for a win that will take them into the top half of the table. And Ajman host Dubai, who are four points from safety despite their defeat of Shabab last week.
17:50 Al Shabab v Al Wahda
18:00 Al Dhafra v Al Shaab
20:30 Ajman v Dubai
20:30 Al Wasl v Al Nasr
17:50 Al Ain v Bani Yas
17:50 Sharjah v Emirates
20:30 Al Jazira v Al Ahli
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu has said his team will have to set some priorities for their looming packed schedule this month, but midfielder Majed Hassan insists the players can focus on all fronts.
The Red Knights have played six games in the past 20 days and were clearly fatigued during their 0-0 draw against Sepahan in the AFC Champions League action at the Rashid Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Arabian Gulf League leaders are playing on four fronts, domestically and on the continental level, and with the scheduling not working in favour of the UAE teams competing in the ChampionsLeague, Romanian Olaroiu believes something’s got to give.
But 21-year-old Hassan is choosing to remain optimistic although he admits the players are both mentally and physically spent at the moment.
“Of course fatigue has affected us. We put in a decent second half against Sepahan, but the back-to-back matches in the domestic league, the Champions League and the Cup have caught up with us a little bit,” Hassan told Sport360°.
“We played with 10 men for 70 minutes against Sharjah in the previous game. Mentally, we’re also a bit fatigued because of the pressure of the schedule.
“We are leading the domestic league and we are top of the group in the Champions League and we’re in both Cup finals.”
Following the Sepahan match, Olaroiu said he would discuss the team’s priorities with the board and management.
“It’s not my club, I don’t make such decisions,” he added. “We have to be very clear, think very well and make wise decisions.”
Al Jazira coach Walter Zenga has questioned why more is not done to help UAE teams playing in the Asian Champions League, after his side crashed to defeat against Esteghlal.
Zenga’s men were playing their sixth game in 18 days, while their Iranian opponents had only taken to the field three times in the corresponding period.
The Italian rejected claims that his side were tired, but raised the issue of why clubs featuring in Asian competitions do not receive a lighter domestic workload.
He said: “Tell me, where is the protection for the teams that play in the Champions League?
“We either want teams to get far in the Champions League, or we do not care about it. But, we are only tired now because we lost the game,” the Italian added.
Al Jazira last night slipped to their first Asian Champions League defeat this term thanks to Mohammad Ghazi’s second-half strike on 70 minutes.
Prior to that moment, Esteghlal defender Jlloyd Samuel only received a booking for a crunching foul that forced Ahmed Mousa off through injury.
Zenga believes that decision from referee Dong Jin played an influential role in deciding the outcome of the game.
He said: “In the crucial moment of the game, he [Samuel] should have received a red card. Instead, I had to change a crucial player for my team and then we conceded the goal.
“Sometimes, the story of a game is decided by a decision.”
Jazira had drawn 0-0 against Al Nasr last Thursday but were not without opportunities, with attackers Felipe Caicedo and Ahmed Rabia guilty of being wasteful in front of goal.
When asked whether he was concerned by this spell, he replied: “No, because we created a lot of chances. The difference is when you do not create anything, then you can be afraid.”
Opposite number Amir Ghalenoei claimed his side “were better tactically”, a suggestion Zenga flatly rejected.
“If the tactical advantage is to shoot on goal for the first time in the 55th minute, then I do not know what kind of game he saw from his bench,” the Italian said. “I do not remember any chance before Ali Khaseif made a save in the first 10 minutes of the second half. I saw one team who just wanted to defend deep and counter attack.”