Diaz, 61, was unveiled by the Blue Wave after signing a contract until summer 2022 on Thursday, mere hours before kick-off against resurgent Khor Fakkan, as replacement for 2019/20 Arabian Gulf Cup winner Krunoslav Jurcic. The former Argentina striker – who claimed multiple trophies at River Plate and Al Hilal – takes charge of a side who dropped to fifth following last week’s 3-0 thumping by fellow high flyers Al Jazira.
“The choice of Diaz came after a comparison between several candidates and after a thorough study from the football company,” chairman Abdulrahman Abu Al Shawareb said of a hire who endured a brief stint at Brazil’s Botafogo last November marred by health problems.
“Our ambitions are great with the coach.”
Huge rivals Al Ain and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, meanwhile, meet in a clash neither can afford to lose.
Both giants sit well off the pace in fourth and sixth, respectively, though strengthened their ranks significantly in the winter market. Japan playmaker Shoya Nakajima could finally debut for the hosts after last week’s galling 2-2 draw at Khor Fakkan came too soon, while Uzbekistan magician Jaloliddin Masharipov may be joined in the visitor’s match-day squad by $6 million former Flamengo midfielder Yuri Cesar.
A returning hero could be in the ranks of Al Dhafra when they host Jazira.
Makhete Diop signed up on Monday’s deadline day once an exit had been negotiated from Saudi Professional League leaders Al Shabab. The 33-year-old netted 77 goals in 109 top-flight run-outs from 2012-16.
Bottom-placed Hatta could unleash Al Nasr loanee Dostonbek Khamdamov, Sharjah loanee Jonathas and Slovenia centre-back Miral Samardzic at Al Wasl, while ex-Dhafra forward Romulo should debut for Ittihad Kalba versus Ajman.
Third-placed Bani Yas will be determined to return to winning ways against relegation-threatened Fujairah and Al Wahda can hope against leaders Sharjah that 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin will build on his goal-scoring debut.
MATCH-WEEK 15 FIXTURES
17:30 Bani Yas v Fujairah
17:30 Al Nasr v Khor Fakkan
20:15 Al Wahda v Sharjah
17:30 Al Wasl v Hatta
17:30 Al Dhafra v Al Jazira
20:15 Ittihad Kalba v Ajman
20:15 Al Ain v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club