Ali Mabkhout is confident he can bring his devastating form for the UAE back to his club as Al Jazira prepare for a second Abu Dhabi derby inside a week.
Mabkhout, who top scored at last month’s Gulf Cup with five goals, will be in the Jazira side lining up against in-form neighbours Bani Yas on Friday night.
The 24-year-old failed to make an impact in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Al Wahda – his first game since the UAE’s semi-final defeat to hosts Riyadh – but he insists he is still brimming with confidence.
“The Gulf Cup was fantastic. It was good for the UAE, to make us ready for the Asia Cup. I was happy with the way we played, it was good,” said Mabkhout.
“I was pleased with how I played too. It was good for me. It is always good for a striker to score.
“I hope I can continue this form for Jazira, for sure. I’ve just returned, to help out, and I hope I can continue to score for the club.”
Mabkhout will be paired in attack with the Arabian Gulf League’s top scorer, Mirko Vucinic.
The Montenegrin has 14 goals so far – his nearest rival in the scoring charts has six – and Jazira coach Eric Gerets stressed the importance of his front two clicking against the “dangerous” Sky Blues, who routed Fujairah 7-0 on Sunday.
“He (Mabkhout) has scored important goals for his country,” said Gerets. “In the last game he wasn’t at his best level, maybe he was a little bit tired or had a little injury, but let’s hope he will be 100 per cent fit and motivated for this important game, because if he is in good shape, he’s a very important player for us.
“I think the offensive sector was not as dangerous (against Al Wahda) as they were in other games,” said Gerets.
“This can happen in one game, but it’s important it doesn’t happen in two.”
For his part, Vucinic doesn’t mind where the goals come from, as long as Jazira win.
“I want to score goals but what I want (more than anything) when I play the game is to win,” said the 31-year-old. “It doesn’t interest me if I score or somebody else does.
“We have a very difficult match and we hope to go there to take three very important points for us.”
While Jazira have scored five more goals than any other team in the division, only the bottom three clubs have conceded more, and Gerets admits he is concerned about the amount of late goals his team are conceding.
Vucinic’s 87th minute opener against Wahda on Sunday was cancelled out by Hussain Fadel’s 90th minute equaliser.
“The game takes 90 minutes and if you think, after 86 minutes it’s finished, you make a mistake and we paid the price,” the former Belgian international defender said.
“We have conceded goals in the last minutes of games that have cost us points.”
Bani Yas’ demolition job on Fujairah was their sixth straight win in all competitions and Gerets says it serves as a warning.
He said: “We need a big result but you should take very seriously a team who wins 7-0. We know this team is very dangerous at this moment. We should be prepared as this team is in real good shape.”