Supreme concentration will be Al Ahli’s “weapon” as they bid to beat Ittihad Kalba and seal their spot in the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals, according to boss Cosmin Olaroiu.
The Red Knights sit top of Group B ahead of Friday’s fixture, knowing they cannot drop out of the top two if they triumph.
“Focus is our weapon in the game and our goal is to play football,” said Olaroiu. “This is an important game.”
Meanwhile on Friday, both other fixtures contain virtual dead rubbers as Al Wahda host Hatta in Group A and Bani Yas travel to Al Ain in the other section.
In Group B Thursday, Al Nasr coach Dan Petrescu has urged his players to gain control of their own destiny.
The 2014/15 winners will make the last-four if they win both remaining games, beginning with the visit of Dibba Al Fujairah.
“The best chances are in our hands, not in Al Ahli or Al Shabab’s hands,” he said.
Elsewhere Thursday evening, Sharjah need a win against Al Jazira in Group A to exorcise the memories of last week’s 7-1 humiliation by Al Wahda. Victory for Al Dhafra against fellow top-flight strugglers Emirates Club will almost seal progression from the same pool.
The need for Al Nasr to make a change at the top was undeniable and in long-term target Dan Petrescu, they have landed a coach with a proven track record of success.
The dismissal of Ivan Jovanovic on Saturday provided the culmination to a 2016/17 season full of sorrow. From the farrago surrounding Brazil-born striker Wanderley’s “forged or falsified” Indonesian passport to a subsequent malaise which totalled six defeats in 10 games, it is clear the current situation could no longer be tolerated.
Serious questions remain to be answered at boardroom level about the documentation scandal which has ravaged their campaign. Yet in the new man – who oversaw his first training session last night – they have found the right candidate to stop the Blue Wave from crashing and to kick on for the demanded top-three finish.
Only a prohibitive €12 million (Dh60m) release clause stopped the ex-Chelsea and Romania right-back from beating Jovanovic to the job during 2013. Now a supremo with much to prove after his star waned in the intervening years will come to Dubai fired up.
Petrescu’s standing as an outstanding footballer will earn the instant respect of a dressing room which has grown apathetic since their dreams of making the 2016 AFC Champions League semi-finals were snatched away. A new boss means a squad out to impress, with continued under-performers sure to be cut loose in the winter window.
He can also point to silverware won in several countries. Most recently, the Chinese FA Cup was claimed at outsiders Jiangsu Suning in 2015.
Prior to that, highlights include winning the Romanian Supercup in the same year during his one game at Targu Mures as well as a rebuilding job at Kuban Krasnodar – from whom he departed for a second time earlier this month – which included the 2010 Russian First Division title.
The winds of change have swept through Al Maktoum Stadium. Petrescu should now carry them to success.
The Arabian Gulf League’s managerial merry-go-round is often an unforgiving ride but Al Nasr’s decision to replace the skilled and successful Ivan Jovanovic with Dan Petrescu after five rounds of a 26-game campaign appears rash.
Granted, what seemed a season full of possibility a little over two months ago has since come crashing down for the Blue Wave, but pressing the panic button, so commonly the go-to move in the UAE, is not the answer.
Petrescu was Nasr’s first-choice following the dismissal of Walter Zenga three years ago and the Dubai club have surely kept a close eye on his ensuing triumphs. But can he realistically fill the shoes of a manager who changed the face of the club since his appointment in June 2013? Simply put, no.
Jovanovic led Nasr to GCC Club Cup glory in 2014, breaking a 27-year cycle without a major trophy. He followed that with an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later. Despite a glut of silverware gleaned under his guidance, Jovanovic’s one glaring failure was not reeling in the coveted AGL title, with two fifth and one fourth placed finishes attained in his three seasons.
He began to address their shortcomings this summer with the acquisition of prolific striker Wanderley and ex-Al Jazira schemer Abdelaziz Barrada, but competition at the AGL’s top table is fierce and there is no suggestion Nasr have the ability to break the Jovanovic mould and penetrate the top three.
Yes, the alarming malaise that set in following the Wanderley furore has contributed to their poor form, but it is not the only reason. Al Ahli look just as imperious as they did last year, Al Ain have hit the ground running while Jazira look rejuvenated and Al Wasl and Al Shabab reinvigorated under new coaches.
Petrescu and his new employers will hope he quickly sets about turning their season around, but the Blue Wave’s 30-year wait for a league title doesn’t look like ending anytime soon.
Al Wahda are finally beginning to see the best of Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak after a difficult start to life in the Emirates, according to Clarets team-mate Sebastian Tagliabue.
The 29-year-old former PSV and Dynamo Moscow forward was signed from Turkey’s Bursaspor in August following an impressive Euro 2016 campaign for his country – during which he scored two spectacular goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw with eventual champions Portugal.
However, a combination of missing the majority of pre-season with the Al Nahyan outfit, arriving during the stifling UAE summer and being away on World Cup 2018 qualifying duty with Hungary have led to underwhelming performances at club level.
But after following up his first Clarets goal in a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl a week ago with another in Friday’s 5-1 thrashing of Al Nasr, Wahda’s lethal marksman Tagliabue believes his new team-mate’s undoubted talent is starting to shine through.
“I think now he is 85/90 per cent adapted,” said the Argentine frontman, whose second goal against the Blue Wave also arrived courtesy of a Dzsudzsak assist.
“He has to adapt to everything; the team, the coach, the weather. Also he needs confidence and I think from the last game against Wasl and today he has got a lot of confidence. Also he has scored two goals and this is very good for him.”
Also telling in Friday’s morale-boosting victory against struggling Nasr was the fact it was the first time Dzsudzsak completed 90 minutes for his new side, having played 60, 68, 45, 45 and been an unused substitute in his previous five games.
After a dour opening half, the game burst into life in the second period with both Dzsudzsak and Chilean Jorge Valdivia at their creative best, while several of Wahda’s youngsters also shone, like Mohamed Al Akbari, Mohammed Al Menhali and Khalid Bawazir.