The Pride of Abu Dhabi make the long trip to Ras Al Khaimah for Friday’s clash as they look to register their first triumph in three matches and put their AFC Champions League qualification hopes back on track.
After describing their display as unacceptable in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Al Wahda in the Abu Dhabi derby, Hertog expects Jazira to play their best football against Emirates, who are battling once again to avoid the drop.
“Last week, we committed mistakes against Al Wahda and I said before that shouldn’t be the level of football we should play at,” said Hertog during the pre-match press conference.
“We have to put on a much improved performance this time because winning gives everyone confidence and belief and that will help us for the remainder of the season.
“We know how important this game is for us. We have lost twice and drawn once in our last three matches and if we want to reach the AFC Champions League, then we have to start winning. Our target is to claim all three points and we don’t want nothing less than that.”
Jazira have slipped to third in their recent poor run. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club are six points ahead in second, while Sharjah look to have the league title sewn up.
The team that finish third will enter the 2020 Champions League qualifiers and the Abu Dhabi outfit are a point above outgoing champions Al Ain and their cross-city rival Clarets.
They will be without long-term absentees Ahmed Rabea, Mohamed Jamal as well as Fares Juma through injury for Friday’s game, while star striker Ali Mabkhout misses out due to suspension.
While Hertog is fully aware of the threat posed by the Falcons, three points above the relegation zone, he wants his team to keep a clean sheet.
“Football is a team game and that is defending and attacking as one,” said Hertog. “I hope we don’t concede any goals because it’s been a long time since we achieved that.”
Cameroon midfielder Sebastian Siani insists the players are determined to showcase their quality again and help Jazira reach next season’s Champions League.
“We haven’t won in three games but we are eager to end that bad run of results,” said the 32-year-old. “It will not be an easy game but we will give our best to win the match and help Al Jazira reach the AFC Champions League.”
More than two decades of frustration could end this weekend when long-term leaders Sharjah aim to seal the Arabian Gulf League’s title.
The King have cast aside their tag as regular relegation battlers with a bravura – and potentially historic unbeaten – 2018/19. Abdulaziz Al Anbari’s men boast a six-point advantage ahead of round 24, despite drawing their three previous fixtures.
Second-placed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club visit improving Al Nasr on Friday. The pacesetters need only match this result 24 hours later at Al Wasl to gain their first top-flight crown since 1995/96, because of a superior head-to-head record.
Elsewhere, relegation could also be sewn up with two games in arrears. A win for 12th-placed Emirates Club against 2020 AFC Champions League chasers Al Jazira would pile the pressure on bottom-placed Dibba Al Fujairah and second-bottom Fujairah.
The Falcons hold a superior head-to-head record against both. With Fujairah also five points in arrears and Dibba currently three, victories versus beaten President’s Cup finalists Al Dhafra and – soon-to-be-deposed – title holders Al Ain, respectively, should be key.
Embattled coach Juan Carlos Garrido was encouraged by the belated show of “fighting spirit” from troubled Al Ain, even though a 2-0 loss at Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal guarantees a premature exit from the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Eager Green Falcons winger Hattan Bahebri ominously scored within 15 seconds on Monday evening for the big-spending hosts at King Saud University Stadium. A heavy defeat to compound the misery incurred in a – now – eight-match winless spell seemed inevitable, yet only veteran midfielder Mohammad Al Shalhoub was able to further get on the score sheet with a measured 90th-minute finish from the edge of the penalty box.
This result, with a fixture to spare, sent the hosts through as Group C winners, while eliminating the Boss from the opening phase for the first time in six years. Garrido, however, hoped the dogged display would act as encouragement to gatecrash the Arabian Gulf League’s top-three and secure their ticket for the 2020 continental tournament.
“We do not think about the outcome of any match,” said the 50-year-old. “Our focus was on the game and our goal was to get the three points.
“I was asking the players to show fighting spirit.
“The fact is that the team is going through conditions of decline in performance and has not been at its best for a while. But we are now required to think about our future fixtures and to reserve our AFC Champions League qualifying ticket for next season.”
Young winger Mohammed Khalfan impressed in spurts, but Al Ain struggled to truly threaten. This paucity of opportunity (the Boss had six attempts to Hilal’s 11) frustrated former Villarreal tactician Garrido.
He said: “The real analysis of football matches is always shortened by the final result.
“We suffered a quick goal from the opponent, but we were in the game in the second half.
“But we have not succeeded in translating chances into goals.
“When the easy chances are wasted, you will not be able to achieve any positive result. I cannot fail to congratulate Al Hilal on winning and qualifying for the knockout stages.”
Al Ain round out their ACL commitments with May 20’s dead rubber against Iran’s Esteghlal at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.