Marcel Keizer’s successful five-month tenure at Al Jazira is set to imminently end after a compensation package was agreed with Sporting Lisbon.
Keizer, 49, undertook training on Wednesday night – and could even stick around for Thursday’s session – ahead of landing in the Portuguese capital on Saturday as replacement for dismissed ex-Al Wahda and Sharjah coach Jose Peseiro. Leoes agreed to meet the €550,000 (Dh2.2 million) release clause in the two-year contract signed only in June by the ex-Ajax supremo.
A swift return to Europe proved too tempting and Jazira’s enamoured board could not convince him to stay. The club are now intent on appointing a third-successive Dutch coach.
Long-term Bert van Marwijk assistant Roel Coumans, 48, recently helped work wonders with Saudi Arabia, plus went with Australia to World Cup 2018.
Keizer’s No2, Damien Hertog, has also impressed senior figures, while the likes of ex-APOEL leader Mario Been are unattached.
Keizer – successor to the iconic Henk ten Cate – has overseen an unbeaten start in the Arabian Gulf League, plus a welcome return to a traditional swashbuckling style. Jazira currently sit second, only two points off leaders Sharjah.
Time is at a premium now for UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni after his penultimate training camp before January 2019’s Asian Cup began in Dubai on Tuesday.
A 28-man squad was selected by the tournament hosts for the get together at Nad Al Sheba, that also contains November 16’s friendly with Bolivia and November 20’s gala meeting with Egypt.
Here are the talking points:
IT’S ALL ON MABKHOUT
Just one man is left standing from the UAE’s ‘Big Three’.
Tears flowed last month when knee ligaments were torn by superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman. He’ll be lucky to kick a ball again in 2018/19, never mind the Asian Cup.
Persistent fitness problems at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club have seriously impinged World Cup 2018 qualifying’s global joint-top scorer, Ahmed Khalil.
Al Jazira hot shot Ali Mabkhout is the only talisman present. With nine goals in eight Arabian Gulf League games, he’s in decent form.
المهندس مروان بن غليطة رئيس اتحاد الكرة وعبدالله ناصر الجنيبي رئيس لجنة دوري المحترفين وهشام الزرعوني عضو مجلس الإدارة ومحمد بن هزام الظاهري الأمين العام لاتحاد الكرة والدكتور حسن سهيل عضو لجنة المنتخبات الوطنية يشهدون تدريبات منتخبنا الوطني في ملعب ند الشبا ..#منتخب_الإمارات pic.twitter.com/I6D2AEShSK— UAE NT (@uaent2019) November 6, 2018
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
The UAE’s travails in attack are well known – since Zaccheroni arrived in October 2017, only eight goals have been scored during 15 matches.
At the other end of the pitch, things also aren’t looking rosy.
In seven matches since last winter’s Gulf Cup, clean sheets were only kept against minnows Laos and Andorra.
Veteran Ismail Ahmed is creaking and youngster Khalifa Mubarak requires work. A recall for versatile Shabab Al Ahli defender Walid Abbas offers a potential cure.
MAKING THE BIG STEP
A youthful edge is present in Zaccheroni’s roster.
Al Nasr forward Mohamed Al Akbari is back in favour, while Jazira’s Khalfan Mubarak must pull the strings in Amoory’s – lengthy – absence. Pride of Abu Dhabi forward Ahmed Rabea and Al Dhafra loanee Saeed Jassem also get fresh chances.
Continued reward for a 2018 Asian Games bronze has come for skipper Ahmed Rashid, goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi, Sharjah midfielder Majid Surour and Jazira prospect Zayed Al Ameri.
Of this sprightly cohort, however, only seven 2018/19 top-flight goals have been scored. Mubarak accounts for four of them.
Round nine of the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
Here are Sport360’s top picks:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ismail Al Hammadi (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
The UAE winger rode a rollercoaster in Monday’s 2-1 victory at Emirates Club.
Shabab Al Ahli appeared to be cruising towards a half-time lead, before the ball was hammered against Al Hammadi’s hand and Cheick Diabate levelled from the spot.
Amends was made ASAP with a cute slide-rule pass which put the prolific Jaime Ayovi in to win it.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Saif Rashid (Sharjah)
Rashid took things into his own hands in an ultimately frustrating 2-2 draw for the league against yo-yo side Ittihad Kalba.
Little seemed on when the bustling right winger forced a defensive blunder near the halfway line.
Fast forward less than 10 seconds later and he’d punished back-tracking Kalba with a fine slow shot.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Marcel Keizer (Al Jazira)
A swift return to Europe with Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon appears just a matter of time for Keizer.
If the ex-Ajax coach is to leave Abu Dhabi after just five months, he goes with his head held high.
Rampant speculation was ignored to ensure his unbeaten troops defeated Al Wasl 2-0. Keizer is going to be missed.
What’s going wrong at Wahda?
More points have slipped away for Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Al Wahda.
The 3-3 draw at promoted Fujairah made for frantic viewing. Wahda went 1-0 down, breezed to a 3-1 lead, then conceded twice in seven minutes and were saved from defeat by the woodwork in injury time.
Victory was last tasted by expected title contenders four matches ago. Alarmingly, these games have seen 11 goals conceded.
But fitness and concentration are also lacking. The last three fixtures have witnessed damaging goals conceded past 80 minutes.
Answers must be found in the international break.