The Arabian Gulf League has claimed its first managerial casualty of the season after Al Dhafra chose to dismiss Anel Karabeg and bring in Romanian Marin Ion.
Karabeg, 52, was promoted from reserve coach this summer after two years with the club. The Bosnian's last game on Monday saw striker Makhete Diop bury a 93rd-minute penalty to claim a 3-3 draw with Al Jazira – their fourth in four consecutive top-flight matches under his guidance.
Replacement Marin is to begin work on Wednesday. He stepped down as Kuwait SC boss in April, bringing an end to a successful spell in which he was named manager of the year in 2013 after he claimed the Kuwaiti Premier League and added a second successive AFC Cup.
The well-travelled 59 year old has worked in the UAE before at Dubai Club in 2011.
Karabeg's position was first questioned last week after changes were put in place to swap two foreign foreign players for Argentina international winger Matias Defederico and Brazilian forward Paulo de Oliveira.
Thus far, Defederico's replacement Youssef Kaddioui struck an impressive debut brace while De Oliveira started against Jazira. Negotiations about a second new acquisition and who will depart are close to completion ahead of Thursday's closure of the transfer window.
Prior to the start of the AGL campaign, Fujairah drafted in Iraqi Abdulwahab Abdulqadir on September 2 after Dzemal Hadziabdic departed.
Bani Yas must break through a mental block to begin getting results on the pitch, according to coach Luis Garcia.
The Spaniard has endured an underwhelming start to his Sky Blues rein, drawing the opening two fixtures before collapsing to a 2-1 defeat on Friday to Arabian Gulf League runners-up Al Wahda.
This was the second time this season Bani Yas have dropped points from a winning position. They will hope to correct this run tonight when they travel to play Emirates Club.
“Now we will fight again to win,” said Garcia, who has also been boosted by Mohammed Jaber and Yousif Jaber penning new deals.
“We know Emirates Club is very strong. We have ambition for every match. I hope to not do the same mistakes that we made against Al Wahda. We have been searching for the solution to the psychological problem our players have been facing – when we concede a goal we let our heads drop. I hope this will not happen from now on.”
Garcia was in forthright mood on Friday, demanding administrators set realistic targets for the season ahead and secure a tall striker before the window closes on Thursday. Negotiations to bring in Mohamed Naser from Wasl have proven fruitless. Revisiting the issue of aspirations, the 41 year old believed his youthful squad could reach beyond mid-table if they work hard on the training pitch.
Garcia said: “My target is not to do what Bani Yas did last season and finish ninth. We will do better, maybe fifth or sixth. I know we have good players. The problem is that my players are very young. They have a good future and we need to train more to make them strong.”
Elsewhere, early leaders Wahda host a Sharjah side coming off a 4-2 win over Kalba. Winless Al Wasl travel across Dubai to take on Al Nasr, who are without the banned Ibrahima Toure.
Al Hilal manager Laurentiu Reghecampf has warned his side against complacency ahead of tonight’s AFC Champions League semi-final second leg in Al Ain.
The Saudi side take a 3-0 lead into the clash following a dominant win in Riyadh a fortnight ago.
Most observers would have you believe that it is already game over, but Hilal’s Romanian coach is remaining cautious.
“We are happy with the result as we scored three goals, but this doesn’t mean that we are in the final,” said Reghecampf.
“In football a lot of things happen, and hopefully we can repeat the good performance that we had in the second leg.”
Hilal are in the midst of a rich spell of form and went top of the Saudi Professional League (SPL) standings courtesy of a 2-1 away victory over Al Fateh last Thursday.
Going into an AFC Champions League second leg with a 3-0 lead is actually not a new experience for Hilal.
In the 2010 quarter-finals, they won the home leg against Qatar’s Al Gharafa 3-0. In second leg, they lost 4-2 to scrape through.
However, striker Yasser Al Qahtani, who played for Al Ain on loan in 2011-12, has dismissed any suggestion of it being a factor.
He said: “I think the only similarity between the two situations is that teams are from the Gulf region. We now have a different way of playing, and a completely different list of players.
“One advantage is that it is a prior experience with the same situation. We can make use of that for tomorrow