Reigning top scorer Ali Mabkhout will miss the trip to Zabeel Stadium with the Pride of Abu Dhabi after an appeal was rejected on Sunday against the controversial four-match domestic ban accrued on UAE duty for breaking curfew. Their opponents will need to manage both the psychological damage incurred during the epic 4-3 defeat last time out at second-placed Al Wahda, plus the absence of 12-goal Brazilian striker Caio Canedo through a suspension of his own.
Speaking before the clash, Jazira assistant coach Harry Decheiver was intrigued to see how the situation would play out.
He said: “Our physical and mental readiness for this important and difficult meeting in the league is key as Ali Mabkhout will be absent from the match because of the suspension issued by the UAE Football Association.
“The absence of Caio will certainly affect them, but the situation is similar to Jazira. There will be no advantage for either team at the expense of the other in this area.
“Overall, the team’s attack includes players like Ahmed Al Attas and Zayed Al Ameri. We have confidence in their ability to compensate.”
Burgeoning UAE prospect Al Attas, 22, is most likely to lead the line. His tally of five goals in 10 AGL games is already the best of his nascent career.
Jazira stormed to the top-flight crown in 2017/18, but Yasser Al Juneibi’s stunning own goal – which has gone viral across the globe – helped end a four-match winless streak last time out against bottom-placed Al Dhafra.
Meanwhile, Moroccan forward Mourad Batna has declared championship chasers Wahda cannot spare struggling Hatta.
The Clarets survived two red cards and an injury-time penalty to edge their classic meeting with Wasl. A different challenge will be poised by Hatta, for whom a fine 3-1 win at Sharjah last week saw them edge away from the drop zone.
“We have to focus during the meeting, record as many goals as possible and not squander any opportunities,” said Batna.
A fourth win in a row will put Wahda top, ahead of Al Ain’s match against Emirates Club on Thursday.
Here, we compare his record to the leading scorers since the competition turned professional at the start of 2008/09:
Club(s): Al Jazira
Games per goal: 1.52
Mabkhout has grown from a wasteful prospect into the best indigenous goal scorer in Asia’s major leagues. At just 27, there are many more to come.
Club(s): Al Ain, Al Ahli (loan)
Games per goal: 0.96
The African joined in his prime, before injuries took their toll; 95 of his goals came at Al Ain from 2011-15 and just six more followed on loan at Al Ahli in 2016/17.
Club(s): Al Wahda
Games per goal: 1.06
There is no great grace to the Argentine striker’s game. He’s simply a relentless scorer of goals. Is showing no signs of slowing down at 32-years old.
Club(s): Al Dhafra, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club
Games per goal: 1.4
The giant Senegalese’s tally would be even more impressive if he’d not loyally spent nearly five years at lowly Dhafra.
FABIO DE LIMA
Club(s): Al Wasl
Games per goal: 1.17
It is not just the volume which impresses about the brilliant Brazilian, it’s also the variety. Long-range or tap-ins, free-kicks or headers, he does it all.
Great intrigue will surround the squad named for next month’s star-studded King’s Cup in Thailand after the UAE Football’s Association’s clampdown on errant leading men Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout continued with the pair’s appeals rejected against controversial domestic bans accrued for misbehaviour on international duty.
2016 AFC Player of the Year Abdulrahman, 26, and 2015 Asian Cup top marksman Mabkhout, 27, were given four-match suspensions on January 23 after they had been found guilty of leaving the Whites’ hotel in Kuwait City without permission from 20:15-22:30 the night before January 5’s dismal penalty-shootout defeat to lowly Oman in the Gulf Cup final. Utility-man Mohammed Fawzi, 27, was also found to have been part of the infraction, but escaped a ban as he was unavailable for the game.
Abdulrahman’s Al Ain plus Mabkhout and Fawzi’s Al Jazira had attempted to get the punishments overturned. But this was rejected out of hand by the Appeals Committee on Sunday.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad are next scheduled to feature in Bangkok from March 23-25 in a tournament organisers say will feature stellar Arsenal signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Gabon, Napoli icon Marek Hamsik with Slovakia and World Cup 2018-qualifying nemesis Thailand – an abysmal 1-1 draw in June on their last visit to Rajamangala National Stadium virtually ended hopes of progression. Whether the aforementioned trio feature will dominate the build-up.
In the wake of their punishments being announced last month, all three pledged their continued commitment to the UAE on Twitter.
Mabkhout and Abdulrahman both served just one of their four-match suspensions before they were frozen when the appeal process was initiated.
Sunday’s events mean Mabkhout will miss Arabian Gulf League clashes at Al Wasl on Wednesday and at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium against Hatta on February 23, plus the Arabian Gulf Cup quarter-final decider at home to Dibba Al Fujairah on February 15. He will be able to feature in the opening two matches of Group A in the 2018 AFC Champions League when Wesley Sneijder’s Al Gharafa of Qatar travel to Abu Dhabi on February 12 and February 19’s trip to Saudi Arabian giants Al Ahli Jeddah.
‘Amoory’, who is currently nursing an injury problem, will be absent for top-flight fixtures at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against Emirates Club on Thursday and at Sharjah on February 24, plus the last-eight AG Cup decider at Al Wahda on February 16. In the ACL’s Group D, he can feature at Saudi Professional League champions Al Hilal in his birth city of Riyadh on February 13 and at home to Michael Laudrup’s Al Rayyan of Qatar on February 20.