Caretaker coach Caio Zanardi is planning to play a confidence trick on the floundering Al Nasr players ahead of his second stint in a woeful season, beginning with Wednesday’s Bur Dubai derby against Al Wasl.
Sporting director Zanardi, 45, was announced as temporary successor to the abysmal Benat San Jose once the Spaniard’s winless eight-match stint was brought to an end on Sunday. The Brazilian – who earned three victories and two losses during December when he filled the void left by the sacked Ivan Jovanovic – has inherited a dramatically underperforming side, sitting just two places and five points above the Arabian Gulf League’s drop zone.
“We are confident that the team will play a good game and come out with positive results from the next meeting,” he said. “I am confident in my players and their desire to perform well.
“My main goal in this period is to restore confidence in my players. My knowledge of most of the players will help me a lot.”
Opponents Wasl have fared little better in 2018/19. They finished third last term, but are now ninth.
A trio of successive top-flight victories, however, has eased fears about a shock relegation.
Coach Laurentiu Reghecampf was taking nothing for granted against the transitional Blue Wave.
He said: “Al Nasr is one of the best teams in the UAE, with a great team of players. But they are unlucky.
“Whether they changed the coach or not, it will not change our goal of delivering a strong performance.”
Title-winning ex-Brazil Under-17 coach Caio Zanardi has answered crisis-club Al Nasr’s alarm call for a second time this season after Benat San Jose was sacked in the wake of zero victories from eight woeful matches in charge.
San Jose, 39, was a surprise hire by the Blue Wave in December on a one-and-a-half-year deal once a decision was made to end Serbian Ivan Jovanovic’s second stint at the helm. The Spaniard came with a strong reputation after he became the youngest manager in Middle East history to win a title – the 2013 King Cup at the age of 33 with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad – and later claimed the 2018 Primera Division de Chile with Universidad Catolica.
But he presided over elimination in the 2019 AFC Champions League play-offs, President’s Cup quarter-finals and Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals. Nasr also dropped from ninth upon arrival to 11th in five dismal Arabian Gulf League fixtures, Saturday’s 2-1 loss at bottom-placed Dibba Al Fujairah proving terminal to hopes of continued employment.
Nasr have, once again, turned towards technical director Zanardi. The 45-year-old won three times and lost twice in December when he, temporarily, took over from Jovanovic.
“Al Nasr appoints Brazilian Caio Zanardi to take over the training of the club’s first team,” the Blue Wave tweeted. “All the best for Caio.”
Zanardi’s immediate task is to prepare his charges for Wednesday’s Bur Dubai derby versus Al Wasl at Al Maktoum Stadium.
The troubled hosts sit just two places and five points ahead of the relegation zone to First Division League.
Round 18 of the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
A trio of first-half goals kept unbeaten leaders Sharjah on course for a first title since 1995/96, while Al Nasr’s nightmare continued upon the resumption after the international break with a 2-1 loss at bottom-placed Dibba Al Fujairah.
Here are Sport360’°s top picks and a talking point:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sebastian Tagliabue (Al Wahda)
What a servant Tagliabue has been, and continues to be, for the Clarets.
The Argentine striker marked his 200th game for them with a brace in the 2-0 win against relegation-bound strugglers Emirates Club.
A close-range finish and one-on-one moved him onto 177 goals for his current employers since June 2013’s move from Al Shabab Riyadh.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Mauro Diaz (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
Anyone with a love for the impudent would have appreciated the speed of thought on display in the 3-1 victory at Ittihad Kalba.
A loose clearance caused the ball to trickle towards the summer buy from Dallas FC. With the goalkeeper charging out at him, self-preservation and an eye for goal saw Diaz improvise a rapid back-heel sweep.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Mohamed Al Khadim (Dibba Al Fujairah)
After an agonising wait of 184 days, bottom-placed Dibba were relishing that winning feeling once again.
Victory at the third attempt was earned by caretaker coach and club stalwart, Al Khadim, after two previous near misses. Brazilian striker Diogo Acosta was key, swivelling to set-up the first and scoring the second in the 2-1 win versus Al Nasr.
Bert’s reasons to be cheerful
Whisper it quietly, but reasons to be cheerful exist for new UAE boss Bert van Marwijk after a first round of AGL games under his care.
Injury hampered forward Ahmed Khalil struck for Shabab Al Ahli. For the next generation, Ali Saleh scored for Al Wasl, Zayed Al Ameri got an assist for Al Jazira and there were clean sheets for Wahda’s Ahmed Rashid and Mohamed Al Shamsi.