Jovanovic challenges Al Nasr to reach AGC semis

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Looking ahead: Ivan Jovanovic

Despite two wins from two, Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic admits the Arabian Gulf Cup sits low on his list of priorities but that has not stopped him from challenging his players to maintain their perfect record.

The Blue Wave have had a perfect start to the competition with impressive victories over giants Al Ain and Al Ahli and now sit third in Group B.

The 2015 winners will look to claim maximum points again when Dubai rivals Al Shabab visit Al Maktoum Stadium on Tuesday night.

Their opponents go into the game on the back of a 3-2 defeat to Al Ahli last week but Jovanovic feels his fringe players have the quality to overcome the Hawks and strengthen their chances of reaching the last-four.

“The Arabian Gulf Cup is not a priority for the team but it is an important tournament for a large number of players who will play in the absence of international players,” said the 54-year-old.

“The possibility of reaching the semi-finals competition will be good for them and for the team in general, and I expect after winning  tough matches against Al Ahli and Al Ain, the Al Shabab win would be a good motivation for the players.”

The Serbian will be without a number of players including Salim Saleh and Tariq Ahmed, who are injured, and is sweating on the fitness of Khalid Jalal, who picked up a knock in the 3-2 win over Al Ain on Friday.

Meanwhile, in Group A, will be aiming to pick up their second victory when they travel to Hatta, who are still yet to get off the mark, having lost all three games including the 4-0 defeat to Emirates.

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Wahda’s Aguirre wants a response

Matt Jones 4/10/2016
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Seeking a response: Aguirre has yet to mastermind a win this term for Wahda.

The Mexican has endured a wretched start to the 2016/17 season with his team yet to win in five games – including two defeats and a draw from their opening three AG Cup matches.

Aguirre, however, does not feel retaining a trophy they won for the first time last season is beyond his side. But he feels they have to win their next three matches, starting with struggling Emirates today.

“We need to win this game otherwise we are out of the competition,” said the ex-Atletico Madrid boss who led Wahda to the trophy following a 1-0 win against Al Shabab in April.

“We didn’t play well in the last game but the Al Wasl game is gone. We are now focused on this game. We have to win this game, we want three points. Our position at the moment is not good but to take the Cup again is possible, but we need to win three games.”

In theory the Clarets have played their most difficult games, drawing with Al Jazira and losing to Al Dhafra and Wasl, with Shrajah and Hatta to follow after the Falcons.

Theo Bucker’s side are not in great form themselves, having won for the first time this season in a 4-0 thrashing of Hatta last time out in the Cup.

They are two points above Wahda and Aguirre insists just one win is required to turn their dreadful start around.

“We have to take three points in this game to hopefully start our season, just a win is needed in order to do that,” said the man who led the Al Nahyan outfit to a trophy and the AFC Champions League playoffs in his debut campaign in Abu Dhabi.

“We have just one point but we will try to win this game to make our fans happy and to recover our players’ confidence. We have not played well from the beginning of the season, we haven’t won a game yet, but we are not a bad team. There is no reason for this.”

New signing Nasser Abdulhadi echoed his coach’s comments by claiming a first win could be the turning point for Wahda.

“The Emirates game will be our gate for a return to winning ways,” said the midfielder, acquired from Dibba Al Fujairah in the summer.

“We didn’t play well in the last game and have to win this game. It won’t be easy because, like the coach said, our position is not good now. We want to win cups all the time and we will fight in this game to start our season and give us new confidence.”

Chile schemer Jorge Valdivia and Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak will not feature as they are away with their national teams.

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WATCH: Legend Maradona in Dubai action

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The Argentina hero, who famously led his country to World Cup glory in 1986, showed that he hasn’t lost any of the touch, quality or goalscoring ability that has led many to believe he is the best player of all time.

Maradona is heading up an Emirati contingent to play in the October 12 peace match, which is being backed by the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for World Peace and aims to promote the values of peace around the world.

The former Napoli star will lead a stellar field of footballing talent in Rome – with Ronaldinho, Robert Pires, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and Antoine Griezmann all set to feature.










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