An ‘Al Clasico’ contest awaits on Wednesday when rivals Al Jazira and Al Ain square off in the Arabian Gulf League.
The second-placed Boss are desperately hanging onto the coattails of surprise unbeaten leaders Sharjah, meaning a repeat of 2017/18’s entertaining 3-2 victory at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium is a must.
For Jazira, their campaign that once promised so much under Marcel Keizer has descended into a scrap for AFC Champions League football under fellow Dutchman Damien Hertog.
NOT HITTING THE MARC
Marcus Berg’s goal droughts are becoming more famous than his scoring exploits.
A 17-match spell for Sweden without finding the back of the net came either side of World Cup 2018. But life in UAE football was meant to be much easier for the hit man.
His debut campaign contained a leading 21 goals in 25 top-flight matches for double winners Al Ain. Now, he comes into Wednesday’s contest on the back of a sapping 11-match period without bagging for club and country.
The absences of star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and coach Zoran Mamic, both poached by Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, cannot be helping.
His crisis of confidence, evident with early misses in Saturday’s 2-1 triumph against Fujairah, must be solved. With four goals in three appearances versus Jazira last term, the end could be near.
FAITH IN THE FUTURE
Jazira are poster boys for the AGL’s current age of austerity.
Rampant, unaccountable spending on flops likes Brazil midfielder Thiago Neves is a memory. They are, however, well positioned to thrive in this skinflint era.
The latest product from their fruitful academy is forward Zayed Al Ameri. His eight top-flight appearances in 2018/19 is already the most of a fledgling career.
But while goals fly in for the UAE Under-23s, he’s yet to get off the mark in the top flight. Best of luck versus the Boss.
Jazira v Al Ain should stir the senses, yet undulating fortunes for both participants mean it is 2014/15 since their clashes truly meant something.
An intriguing factor in this clash is the searing form of Arabian Gulf Cup champions Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club. They sit in the third-and-final ACL qualification spot, three points behind the Boss and one point ahead of Jazira.
A strong result for either side on Wednesday will temper the threat from Dubai. Defeat will create usurpation, or abandonment.
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