Al Jazira will be missing four key players including star striker Ali Mabkhout but head coach Damien Hertog is confident his team can claim victory against Fujairah after been impressed with their work ethic during training.
Jazira travel north for Thursday’s Arabian Gulf League match and will be looking to get back to winning ways and their title fight back on track following a 1-0 defeat against Shabab Al Ahli last time out.
Hertog will be without suspended trio – midfielder Sebastian Siani, defender Salem Al Eidi and top-scorer Mabkhout – while tenacious midfielder Mohamed Jamal is still injured.
However, Hertog believes his players are more than capable of coping with the absences against Fujairah, who are 12th.
“We have some players missing who are suspended or injured for this match including our top-scorer (Mabkhout) which we would rather not have,” said Hertog, whose side sit third in the standings, four points behind second-placed Al Ain and six adrift of leaders Sharjah, who go to Al Nasr on Thursday.
“This is something we have to deal with and that is why we have a squad. During the week we have been working on a strategy on playing without these players and we are looking to take all three points against Fujairah.
“Overall I am very impressed by the players’ efforts in training. Their work ethic and discipline has been fantastic during the week. Their willingness to improve every day as well as having fun in training is what I really enjoy about working at the club.”
Despite a 15-point margin between Jazira and the promoted Wolves, Hertog is wary of the threat posed by their opponents.
“There are no easy games in this league,” said the Dutchman. “We have dropped points to teams below us so we can never underestimate our opponents.
“Fujairah have changed their head coach and this will improve their players’ confidence and this is something we have to be ready for.”
Victory on Thursday will put the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s title challenge back on track but Hertog re-emphasised the importance of no pressure being placed on the team to lift another league crown this season.
“If your goals are to win the league, then there will be pressure,” said Hertog. “But there is no pressure on the team to win the league this season. We have performed very well so far and have the ambition to win every game.
“Our goal is to improve and build the team for this year and the future.”
Dutch midfielder Nacer Barazite said the team is ready to move on following their last defeat.
“It is an important game and it’s three points up for grabs. We have to go out there and win and I am confident we can do that,” he said.
Promoted Bani Yas’ superb return to the Arabian Gulf League continued when they heaped more misery on Al Wasl with a 2-1 away win at Zabeel Stadium on Tuesday.
Colombian midfielder Michael Ortega was on hand in the 23rd minute to convert Leroy George’s low cross. By the 36th minute, the Dutch winger went from producer to scorer when he found the bottom corner from defender Yousef Jaber’s well-placed low cross.
Wasl tried to rally and on 70 minutes forward Hassan Mohammed rattled the post with a sliding shot from close range. This was the second time the woodwork had denied them with returning Brazilian playmaker Ronaldo Mendes rattling the crossbar in-between the Bani goals.
Compatriot Caio Canedo then converted from the penalty spot on 86 minutes, but this was too late to deny the Sky Blues a fourth-successive victory that sent them, temporarily at least, up to fifth. Wasl, last term’s third-placed finishers, remain down in 11th – just four points off the drop zone.
Bani oozed confidence and quickly took control of proceedings in Dubai.
Former Bayer Leverkusen loanee Ortega soon found himself in the perfect position to notch just a second AGL strike in 14 appearances.
Mendes, back from a temporary stint at lowly Fujairah, tried to inspire a response, but could only find the bar.
This sparked a reaction from the startled Sky Blues. Ex- Melbourne Victory flyer George exhibited great poise to dispatch Jaber’s centre for a fourth top-flight goal in 15 run-outs.
Wasl had won their first two games under ex-Al Wahda boss Laurentiu Reghecampf. But this resurgence looked bound to end long before Mohammed was denied by the post and Canedo profited from Ortega’s handball.
Revitalised Al Wasl’s hectic run of three matches during 10 days, in two competitions, begins on Tuesday with a clash against tricky promoted opponents Bani Yas.
New boss Laurentiu Reghecampf’s organisational skills are set to be tested against the Sky Blues and Al Wahda – the club that sacked him during November – in the Arabian Gulf League, plus Saturday’s hotly anticipated Zayed Champions Cup quarter-final, first leg against Saudi Arabian royalty Al Ahli Jeddah.
“We are still in the starting stage so it is difficult to judge the level of the team now, we have a strong game with Bani Yas and we have to enter the game with the utmost readiness so that we can win,” said the Romanian, whose return of two wins from two top-flight fixtures in charge will be tested against a club who sit a creditable fifth.
“Especially as we will also play difficult matches in a short time.”
Wasl looked set for a shock descent from last term’s third-placed finishers into relegation candidates under Bolivia’s Gustavo Quinteroz and caretaker Hassan Al Abdouli.
Meanwhile, strugglers Fujairah have turned to the man who secured top-flight football to save their season.
Dr Abdullah Mesfer guided the Wolves through last term’s promotion play-offs after the abrupt exit of Diego Maradona. He was then ditched for Ivan Hasek, but the Czech was dismissed after Friday’s 2-0 loss against Wasl left them just three points off the drop zone.
In a lengthy coaching career, Dr Mesfer has also led the likes of UAE, Jordan, UAE Under-23s, Dibba Al Fujairah and Al Dhafra.