The Blue Wave were highly productive during the summer transfer window, bringing in seven players including former Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United star Yohan Cabaye on a free transfer from Premier League side Crystal Palace. Despite the new faces, Al Nasr got their Arabian Gulf League campaign off to a losing start when they suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to Ajman.
Jovanovic’s charges bounced back in the AG Cup though with a 1-0 win over Emirates Club last week. But ahead of a visit to the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, where they take on last season’s domestic league and cup winners Al Ain, the Serb stressed it will take time for his new arrivals to blend as a team.
“Our focus now is entirely on bringing the new players together and seeking to provide enjoyable football that will delight the fans,” said the 56-year-old.
“The first matches of the tournament there are many factors that affect their harmony and the most important is the high temperatures that they are playing in.”
Jovanovic is wary of the threat posed by the Boss and knows his players cannot afford to make the same mistakes they did when they played Ajman two weeks ago.
“We have to be physically good in order to win the game. We have to focus intensively for the full 90 minutes and try and create many goal scoring opportunities. That was something we suffered when we played Ajman,” he added.
“I trust my players and am confident they will give their best.”
For Al Ain, they thrashed Sharjah 4-1 in the first round and while head coach Zoran Mamic admits Nasr will pose a strong challenge, he hopes there is strong support to rally them home.
“Al Ain will enter an important challenge on its first appearance at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium this season and I hope there will be a massive crowd to enhance the ambitions of the players,” said the Croatian, who distanced himself from the UAE national team job on Saturday.
“Last season we achieved a historic double and we deserve strong support because the fans are the most important factor.”
In other games on Monday, Al Jazira visit Emirates with the Pride of Abu Dhabi looking to build on their big 5-2 victory over Fujairah in the opening round. The Wolves, who won promotion last season, welcome Al Dhafra, who will be making their first appearance in the competition this term.
The path to winning the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup has been set following the official draw, which took place at the home of FIFA in Zurich on Tuesday.
Taking place this year from December 12-22, the Club World Cup will bring together the six continental club champions and the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League winners Al Ain to compete for one of club football’s top international prizes.
Following the draw, overseen by head of FIFA tournaments Jaime Yarza with the assistance of Argentina legend Esteban Cambiasso, the route to becoming this year’s FIFA Club World Cup champions was confirmed for the seven teams taking part.
The Boss will play for the chance to enter the competition proper when they face New Zealand’s Team Wellington FC – both of whom will make their FIFA Club World Cup debuts – in the tournament’s opening qualifying match at their own Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on December 12, with the second-round matches taking place on December 15.
European juggernauts Real Madrid – who lifted the trophy in Abu Dhabi last year – will enter the competition at the semi-final stage and play the winners of the match between the champions of Asia (set to be confirmed in November) and Mexico’s CD Guadalajara at Zayed Sports City Stadium on December 19.
The CONMEBOL representatives (winners of the 2018 Copa Libertadores in November) will play the winners of the match between the African club champions and the victors of the Al Ain/Team Wellington clash.
The Club World Cup final will take place at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on December 22.
The full match schedule will be completed in November after the final three continental champions from the AFC, CAF and CONMEBOL have been confirmed.
Cambiasso, a FIFA Club World Cup winner in the UAE with Inter Milan in 2010, said: “Playing in the FIFA Club World Cup is a fantastic experience: to see fans from different continents coming together to support their teams after a successful season creates a thrilling atmosphere.”
Fatma Samoura, FIFA secretary general added: “There is something extraordinarily gratifying about gathering the reigning champions from each confederation – and their tales of hard work to achieve continental success.
“FIFA is committed to fostering club football and its overwhelming global presence, and there is no better platform for that than the FIFA Club World Cup.”
HE major general Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, chairman of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC), added: “We are excited to be hosting the world’s premier club tournament once again. The FIFA Club World Cup is the pinnacle of global professional club football, with the best teams from six continents and the region coming to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi to compete for the title of FIFA Club World Cup champions.
“We are privileged to be hosting some of the best football talent from across the globe. Fans will no doubt be excited to see their heroes from Real Madrid, Guadalajara, Al Ain and Team Wellington. Now we wait, with much anticipation, to find out which other clubs will be joining us in December.”
Tickets for the tournament are now available. For further information about how to apply for tickets and the tournament itself, visit https://www.fifa.com/clubworldcup/organisation/ticketing/.
The UAE exited the 2018 Asian Games but did so with their heads held high following a battling 1-0 defeat to heavyweights Japan in the semi-finals.
After an underwhelming passage to the last four via two penalty shootout wins against North Korea and minnows Indonesia – their only win at the Games came courtesy of a 4-1 hammering of lowly Timor-Leste in the group stage – Maciej Skorza’s side went toe to toe with the Samurai Blue.
Ayase Ueda struck a venomous goal 12 minutes from time to pierce the UAE’s hopes – rocketing a shot off the underside of Mohammed Al Shamsi’s crossbar after a fine tackle and pass from Kota Watanabe to set him up.
Ueda still had plenty to do but opened up his body beautifully and thundered his effort past the Al Wahda stopper.
Japan, expected to turn the Junior Whites over, instead toiled at the Pakansari Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite enjoying the dominant share of possession, Japan were constantly frustrated by their opponents, who also looked dangerous on the counter.
But Watanabe’s incisive pass and Ueda’s unstoppable finish was enough to send them into Saturday’s final, where they’ll play reigning champions South Korea, while the UAE will meet Vietnam in the battle for the bronze medal.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min played a captain’s role as Korea beat plucky Vietnam 3-1 to reach the final.
The World Cup star, who is missing the start of the Premier League season to represent his country in Indonesia, is now just 90 minutes away from a gold medal that would spare him a career-threatening spell of military service.
“I’m ready, I don’t think I need to say anything more,” said Son, refusing to be drawn on the subject. “We’re close to winning gold, to making history, and we will fight for it.”
A double from Lee Seung-woo and another goal from free-scoring striker Hwang Ui-jo sent the Taegeuk Warriors through to the final, where they will chase a record fifth title.