Victory in the tricky away trip to Al Dhafra should provide Al Nasr with a springboard to future joy in the Arabian Gulf League, according to boss Ivan Jovanovic.
The Blue Wave will undertake a lengthy 280-kilometre journey to Madinat Zayed when the top-flight resumes today after the
The draining effects of this four-hour coach ride was on show last term, goals from Pablo Hernandez and Ibrahima Toure within the first 16 minutes being levelled by Laurent Banide’s men with a pair of second-half strikes.
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Such results saw vital points drawn away for Nasr in the race for the 2015/16 crown, eventually finishing fifth. An improvement could act as a marker to show that the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup holders are ready to transfer this success to the title fight after opening with a 2-1 win against Emirates Club.
“I believe it is still too early and the teams have had too few games to show where they can reach this season,” Jovanovic said. “But it is right to think these types of games are very important to win.
“It is good for the psychology and the preparation of the team for the next games if you do.”
The Western Knights finished 11th last season, coach Banide’s December return for a third stint in control ending any relegation worries.
Jovanovic expected a tough test against a club who lost 3-1 in their AGL opener at champions Al Ain.
He said: “I always believe games against Al Dhafra away are interesting and difficult. It is a team who have stayed in the league during the last few years.
“When they play at home, they play with great confidence. It is an important one for us and our target is to win this game.”
Winger Jonathan Pitroipa is expected to feature after a call-up by Burkina Faso saw him miss last Friday’s goalless AG Cup-draw against Al Wasl.
The UAE’s third-choice goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh should also return.
Meanwhile, coach Tarek El Ashry has vowed to keep on fighting after Al Shaab endured a trying top-flight return.
El Ashry, 44, is yet to taste victory in three AGL or AG Cup matches since he joined the newly-promoted outfit this summer from ENPPI SC in his native Egypt.
“I am ready for this challenge,because I adore such tests,” he told Al Ittihad ahead of tonight’s trip to Fujairah. “Even though it is difficult, I will not surrender the fight.
“I will not give up on Al Shaab, despite the negative start in the Arabian Gulf Cup and Arabian Gulf League. In time, we will make a strong team.
“In the end, we will please our loyal fans who have been with the team and supported them in the darkest circumstances.”
Al Dhafra (4-4-1-1): Sultan; Masoud, Al Ali, Ibrahim, H. Al Hammadi; Ali, Jumaa, Al Naqbi, Abdulqader; Barral; Diop
Al Nasr (4-2-3-1): Shambieh; Al Yassi, Al Ameri, Dhahi, Khamis; Mubarak, Abbas; Kembo Ekoko, Jimenez, Ahmed; Nilmar
Bani Yas head coach Luis Garcia hopes Australian midfielder Mark Milligan can transfer his goal-scoring form from country to club as he prepares to play him in a more advanced role.
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The 30-year-old midfielder netted the opening goal for the Socceroos in their comfortable 3-0 win against Tajikistan on Tuesday in World Cup 2018 qualifying.
“I hope for him to target goals with Bani Yas but in his first match he played with Amer Abdulrahman and he was the defensive midfielder,” said the Spaniard.
“After that I tried to play him with Fawaz (Awana), to give him the chance to go forward and score goals. I think with Milligan and the other players in the middle I have a good group.”
The Sky Blues began the Arabian Gulf League season with a 2-0 win at newly-promoted Al Shaab but lost 1-0 to Al Nasr in their opening Arabian Gulf Cup (AGL) fixture a week later.
Garcia’s side still have one foreign slot left open and have been linked with Al Ahli forward Oussama Assaidi and Aston Villa’s Charles N’Zogbia. Garcia, 42, expects to sign someone within days, but was remaining tight-lipped as to his identity.
“I think we have good news but not now,” he said. “The club is trying to make a new signing. We will have news in a few days. It’s not easy to play with three foreign players because all clubs play with four. We are trying. I hope to tell you news about this new player soon.”
Moussa Sow completed 90 minutes and nearly scored a winner on debut as Al Ahli were held 1-1 by newly-promoted Al Shaab in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
But the Arabian Gulf League’s record signing was eclipsed by fellow new boy Lima, who opened the scoring for the Red Knights just before the hour-mark.
Shaab substitute Matias Donoso’s diving header rescued a point, Sow’s late bicycle-kick was saved and Ahli defender defender Kwon Kyung-won was shown a straight red card late on.
Elsewhere, Mohammad Qasim’s stoppage time own-goal robbed Dibba of a maiden top flight win in a 3-3 draw with Al Wahda.
Bakari Kone put Dibba 2-0 up after 18 minutes, Ismail Matar’s free-kick reduing the deficit, before Dibba restored their two-goal cus-ion with 20 minutes to go through substitute Ahmed Ibraheim.
Sebastian Tagliabue’s long-range strike gave Wahda hope and after Boris Kabi wasted a glorious chance to seal victory, Tawfeeq Alhosani’s cross was turned in by Qasim in the 93rd minute.
Emirates Club came from 3-1 down to claim a thrilling 4-3 victory at home against Al Dhafra as Colombian striker Wilmar Jordan netted a hat-trick, including a first-minute opener.
Makhete Diop levelled then Abdulrahim Juma and Khaleel Abdulla Alali made it 3-1.
However, two goals in three minutes sealed Jordan’s treble before Rodrigo Pimpao completed Emirates’ resurgence with the winner 10 minutes from time.