The Pride of Abu Dhabi have not lived up to their nickname this term. A pair of meetings in January saw a 4-2 home loss incurred by the holders in the Arabian Gulf League, plus a 2-0 reversal in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup.
The 2015/16 President’s Cup winners are determined to halt this run at Bani Yas Stadium.
“The morale is very high among us all, and we will not be content to lose three times [to Wahda] in a single season,” said ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant Ten Cate of the meeting with last season’s champions.
“I have absolute confidence in the players’ ability to live up to this great challenge and we are determined to show the true character of Al Jazira in the President’s Cup.
“We have lost to Al Wahda because of different circumstances and because of some individual mistakes in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup match, but the situation will be very different.
“This is because each game is different from the previous, and because we are determined this time to win and qualify for the next round.”
Meanwhile, boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena is not getting carried away after Al Wasl corrected their abrupt slide at the weekend.
The Cheetahs beat Ajman 2-0 in the top flight to claim just a second victory from 11 games in all competitions. They next face minnows Dibba Al Fujairah at Emirates Club Stadium in the President’s Cup quarter-finals.
Arruabarrena said: “After the return of the injured players, we performed well and we won the last game in the league at Ajman.
“But overall, I care about the results we have achieved throughout the season in all the competitions we have participated in.”
There were incredible displays and stunning moments of genius at both ends of the table in the Arabian Gulf League this weekend.
Here are the standout performers:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sebastian Tagliabue (Al Wahda)
In the nine years of professionalism in the UAE, it has been lucky to be graced by several supreme strikers.
Ricardo Oliveira, Asamoah Gyan and Grafite are just three men who have left an indelible mark on the country and competition. But the king of them all is still plying his trade here.
Tagliabue’s 30-minute hat-trick in the 3-2 triumph at Sharjah was utterly characteristic. All three were predatory efforts as Wahda kept the pressure up on leaders Al Ain.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Fabio De Lima (Al Wasl)
Is there anything the fabulously talented Brazilian forward can’t do?
In a season that has contained 19 strikes in the AGL, his effort at promoted Ajman will live long.
The 24-year-old got the ball under pressure on the right-hand side of the penalty box. He then twisted, turned and flicked the ball before launching an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
This goal inspired the Cheetahs to a first league win in six games. Too late to salvage their top-three hopes?
COACH OF THE WEEK
Nizar Mahrous (Emirates Club)
The Syrian must have had a wry smile after this round.
Cut loose by Hatta early last month, he gratefully accepted the emergency call from fellow strugglers Emirates Club during the international break.
Upon the return to action, doomed Hatta recorded a fifth loss in succession. But the Falcons flew high, Sebastian Saez plundering a late, enlivening winner against Al Jazira.
Hope abounds that the new man can engender the surge required to secure a sixth-successive top-flight campaign.
BATTLE AT THE BOTTOM
With the title all-but sewn up, attention now slides towards the scrap against relegation.
A play-off system is expected to be applied to allow for the return to a 14-team competition for 2018/19. The bottom two will automatically drop to First Division League, while the current ninth and 10th-placed go into the lottery of a play-off versus the FDL’s third and fourth-placed finishers,
The pressure will be at maximum next time out when second-bottom Emirates Club play 10th-placed Dibba Al Fujairah in a fortnight’s time.
‘Tigali’, 33, scored three times within 30 first-half-minutes during a 3-2 win at Sharjah on Saturday that extended the title fight with champions-elect Al Ain into the penultimate round. This was his third treble during his last seven matches in all competitions, a run that includes a phenomenal total of 13 goals.
It also caused him to move within four strikes of former Al Ain and Ghana superstar Asamoah Gyan’s 110-goal mark as the leading foreign scorer of the professional era.
“I was sure we would win,” said Reghecampf post-match. “Despite the absences, the most important thing for me is that we keep our level. In regards to the rest of the season, now we must focus perfectly on the game against Al Jazira in the President’s Cup on Thursday.
“I also must say, Tigali continues to prove to everyone that he is the best striker.”
Tagliabue has exceeded even the wildest expectations since he was snapped up from Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab Riyadh in June 2013.
His efforts at the weekend saw him join Al Wasl’s Fabio De Lima as joint-leading marksman in the 2017/18 top flight on 19 goals.
تكريم لاعب #الوحدة تيجالي بعد تسجيله ثلاثية🔥 "هاتريك" في مباراة #الشارقة_الوحدة ضمن مبادرة تكريم الهدافين#دوري_الخليج_العربي— Arabian Gulf League (@AGLeague) April 7, 2018
Al Wahda's Tagliabue receives Goal Scorer Initiative award after scoring a 🔥hattrick in 3-2 win over Sharjah FC #AGLeague 👏💪 pic.twitter.com/4mzAX8IvTv
These came from a wide-open first half at Khalid bin Mohammed Stadium as Sharjah showed no reticence and twice took the lead against second-placed opponents.
Their boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari was only disappointed his charges hadn’t heeded any warnings.
He said: “We talked to the players about the danger of Tigali. But we should not forget what the players did in previous games, we encourage them and trust that they will do their best in the coming games.
“The early goal contributed to the game being very open, especially as Wahda entered the match knowing they must win to keep competing for the title.
“The good thing is we scored two goals and the sad thing is that we conceded three times.”
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN BEGINS
The 2017/18 AGL title could be decided on Saturday, April 21, after organisers announced the second-to-last round of matches.
Both leaders Al Ain and second-placed Wahda will take to the field at 18:00. A win for the former at Al Nasr will guarantee a first top-flight trophy since 2014/15 because of their four-point advantage, no matter what the Clarets do when they play promoted Ajman.