Jazira welcome second-placed and reigning Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain to Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium foran Abu Dhabi derby renowned as the biggest club game in UAE football.
The hosts aim to bounce back following last week’s 3-2 defeat to AGL leaders Sharjah.
With only four points separating both sides, Hertog expects another close encounter against their rivals and believes the home fans can play a vital role by being their ‘12th man’.
“Our home fans were disappointed by the result against Sharjah but we want to amend that by producing a winning performance at our own stadium,” Hertog said during his pre-match press conference.
“Our home fans are fantastic and they will be very important for this match especially as it’s an Abu Dhabi derby.
“Football is a team sport meaning that fans, players and coaches are in it together. We are all happy when we win but we are also sad when we lose.
“Our fans can give us an extra boost which will certainly help inspire my players even more to win the game. We all want to make them happy and proud and getting the victory in this Abu Dhabi derby is something that we are aiming for.”
Both teams also go into the clash almost certain in the knowledge that defeat for either would likely end their title hopes. Jazira, in fourth, are 12 points behind unbeaten Sharjah while the Boss are eight adrift with eight games remaining.
“Sharjah was a tough opponent, but Al Ain will be bigger test as they are the defending champions,” added Hertog.
Jazira will be without five players including defender Fares Juma (suspension) and attacking midfielder Leonardo (injured). However, Hertog believes there’s plenty of quality at his disposal that can help cause Al Ain problems.
“There will always be suspensions and injuries but Al Jazira have a strong, talented squad and not just 11 players. These absences are an opportunity for other players to step up and show their quality and help the team,” he said.
Meanwhile, midfielder Abdullah Ramadan believes his team-mates will give everything they’ve got to beat Al Ain.
“It will be a tough match against Al Ain,” said the 21-year-old Egyptian. “We have put the Sharjah defeat behind us and we know we have to play our best football against Al Ain which I’m sure we will do.”
Kick-off in Al Clasico is at 20:30.
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.
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.”