Al Wahda coach Javier Aguirre and Al Nasr supremo Ivan Jovanovic are both walking a tightrope ahead of their crucial clash in Abu Dhabi on Friday after poor starts to the season.
The Clarets have only lost once in four games but their defence of the Arabian Gulf Cup ended before it began as they failed to win any of their five matches.
Pressure is nothing new to experienced Wahda chief Aguirre. The Mexican has led Mexico and Japan at the World Cup while he also managed Atletico Madrid for three season, so rumpurs surrounding his future is nothing new.
“I am used to this pressure. Pressure is always in your job, it is normal,” said the 57-year-old. “The game is the same here as it is anywhere. If you are not winning, you are not at the level of the expectations of the owners or the fans, of course you are the first to come under scrutiny, but this is normal. The pressure is tough in any place
“This is the risk of my job. In any coaching job in the world if you lose two or three games in a row, everyone starts to get nervous, but this is part of the game and I know the rules.
“I have to focus on the next game. That is my job and I have to put all my energy into this. I can do nothing else. I cannot control all the rumours or situations surrounding me, the only thing I can do is put my best 11 on the field and try to win the game.”
The waves appear to be crashing around Blue Wave boss Jovanovic, meanwhile, following three defeats from four games.
Nasr were riding high just as little as nine weeks ago when new signing Wanderley scored a debut brace as Qatar’s El Jaish were thrashed 3-0 in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final tie.
However, since the former Sharjah hotshot’s Indonesian passport was deemed forged or falisifed, the scoreline was reversed and Nasr have been in freefall, losing five of their next nine games.
The club even took to Twitter on Monday to deny reports that Serbian Jovanovic was on the verge of being sacked.
نادي النصر ينفي الأخبار المتداولة عن إقالة السيد ايفان يوفانوفيتش المدير الفني للفريق الأول لكرة القدم بالنادي.— AL Nasr Club (@ALNasrSC) October 25, 2016
The 30-year-old has been red-hot for the Red Knights, despite concerns over his fitness, racking up six goals in seven appearances in all competitions.
His form belies the question marks that cast a shadow over his return to the Emirates – with just 12 goals scored in 30 games during an injury-plagued year with Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG. There were also reports the former Sunderland striker failed a medical with Championship side Reading before his UAE return.
But the man who bagged 95 goals in 83 AGL appearances for Al Ain between 2012-15 insists he’s just getting started.
“I’m starting to get back to the level I want to be at, because of my recovery,” said Gyan, who has 48 goals in 95 caps for the Black Stars.
“Now I can recover earlier than the previous weeks, which is very, very good for me. And I hope everything continues. I just need to stay on the pitch, make sure I work hard every day and everything will come naturally. I’m confident that, with my quality, anytime I stay on the pitch I’m sure I can deliver.”
Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu must have been cursing his luck when Gyan was stretchered off in the Emirati-Moroccan Super Cup earlier this month – having earlier scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against FUS Rabat.
There was no serious injury though and Gyan was back among the goals after the international break, scoring in a 4-1 thrashing of Dibba Al Fujairah on Saturday.
“I’m feeling good. I overstretched in the last game against the Moroccan side and thought it was a big injury, but the scan showed it wasn’t that serious,” added Gyan.
“It wasn’t a tear. I had to stay out for two days and had to recover. But I’m happy to be back on the pitch because I don’t need this right now.”
He certainly doesn’t, and neither do the champions. The Red Knights travel to the AGL’s early season pacesetters Al Shabab on Friday, and Gyan says he and his teammates want to maintain their winning habit having triumphed in their first three games.
“At the end of the day we should make sure we win and that’s what we’re doing right now,” said Gyan.
“It’s very, very important for the team. We’ve played three games we’ve won three and we’ve one outstanding. It’s good that we’re still winning, we’ve kept that winning record. It’s good for the team, it’s good for the club.
“It builds our confidence and that’s what we should be doing. We should have this winning mentality whether we’re playing good or bad.”
Life is good right now for Zlatko Dalic and Al Ain.
The Croatian’s confident charges looked every inch 2016 AFC Champions League finalists Sunday night, with the midweek success at Qatar’s El Jaish providing inspiration rather than distraction upon the return to domestic matters in the engrossing 2-1 win at Al Nasr.
“From my side, first half was fantastic,” Dalic said. “I was very afraid of this match, but my team were fantastic.
“It was maybe the best game in a long time.”
Fortune was also on their side against opponents in a deep rut. Occasional UAE left-back Mahmoud Khamis first missed a penalty, before his rushed clearance smashed into team-mate Khalid Jalal’s face for the slapstick winner which maintained the visitors’ 100-per-cent start in the Arabian Gulf League.
This is the dispiriting situation faced by the Blue Wave, who added much to a particularly-absorbing first half.
Since the passport farrago with Wanderley which followed August’s stellar Asian opening at Jaish, five defeats from nine subsequent matches have killed all enthusiasm.
Another negative result cannot be countenanced at fellow crisis club Al Wahda, if coach Ivan Jovanovic is given the chance to limp on.
“It was not a very good game from our side,” the diminutive Serbian said. “We need to work more to put our selfishness in the game more, to try more so we can hope to have better results in the future.”
Nasr must have feared the worst early on when exciting Boss summer buy Caio – who collected a second booking at the death – artfully cut through their defence and slammed in a seventh goal in 12 games, with the help of the post.
A shot at parity was then blown when Khamis missed from 12 yards. But Morocco playmaker Abdelaziz Barrada soon conjured another rasping free-kick after his goal against Al Wasl to level.
The preceding Bur Dubai derby was also lost and Jalal’s remarkable own goal on 23 minutes then proved to be the decider.
The second half went by in a blur. It was detailed by UAE forward Salem Saleh’s ballooned effort from five yards and Iraq forward Mohannad Abdulraheem’s debut for the hosts, plus Caio’s late dismissal.