Stage set for ‘El Clasico’ of the UAE

Derby fixtures are known to have a bit of that added spark to them. But this one could turn out to be even more interesting, in more ways than one. It is the ‘El Clasico’ of the UAE.

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Published: Wed 15 Sep 2010, 11:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:29 AM

Al Jazira face-off against Al Wahda, their city rivals from down the road in Week 3 at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Thursday night as the Etisalat UAE Pro-League resumes after break.

Al Jazira are on a roll, having started the League with two wins out of two, while defending champions Al Wahda have endured their worst possible start to the season, going down to Al Wasl in the opening game before getting their campaign back on track with a win over promoted club Ittihad Kalba. Prior to that, Al Wahda had lost the season-opening Super Cup fixture against demoted club Emirates.

Those two losses cost Romanian manager Laszlo Boloni his job and the Al Wahda management have brought in Brazilian Tite to arrest the slide. Tite has previous UAE experience, having coached Al Ain in 2007. Al Wahda have a busy campaign, having also qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup to be held in Abu Dhabi in December.

Fernando Baiano will face-off against his former club again and the match also brings two other Brazilians face-to-face. Al Jazira coach Abel Braga will be up against Tite. Both have coached Brazilian club Internacional.

Braga reckoned it would be a tough game and felt the team which capitalises on the other team’s mistakes, will come out trumps.

“Al Jazira have the players to win and so do Al Wahda. The team which takes advantage of the rival team’s mistakes will win,” Braga said and added: “Whoever loses will not be happy in the end. The two coaches have prepared the teams for the big match.”

But Braga was also cautious about the game and said: “Al Wahda have a strong defence but they also attack like all the big teams. I know the Al Wahda coach. Tite is a friend of mine. With him as coach, Al Wahda look even stronger. We are aware what he and the team are capable of. Al Wahda are one of the strongest teams in the UAE and they have a lot of players in the National team. Pinga left but they have Fernando Baiano and new signing Hugo as well.”

Braga said both teams were evenly matched. “The start of the game will be hard on both teams because of the pressure that comes with a big game. I told my players to pay attention to all the details in the game. Al Wahda are a dangerous team and they have some really good players who are capable of turning a match around. But at the same time, Al Wahda also know that we have some good players as well,” said Braga.

Regarding new signing Argentine attacking midfielder Matias Emilio Delgado, Braga said: “The match against Al Sharjah was a tough one. I gave Delgado a chance in that game and he is competing with Sultan Saleh Bargash for a spot in the line-up. He still has to get used to his teammates and we will wait till he gels well with the team.” Braga defended his decision to have the training out of bounds for the media. “I have no option but to have the training session out of bounds for the media. There is some secret training and tactics which we don’t want the opposing team to know about. All coaches close the training for one session at least,” he said.

As far as team news goes, defender Rashid Abdul Rahman still needs some time to recover from injury and will not play. Defender Ali Salem Ahmed has recovered and will play. Midfielder Hilal Saeed has a health problem and has been ruled out of the Derby fixture.

Al Wahda defender and UAE Under-20 captain Hamdan Al Kamali has recovered from injury and will play. Hamdan Al Kamali had suffered a cut above his left eye during UAE’s friendly game against Kuwait, which required five stitches.

In other games on Thursday night, Ittihad Kalba take on Al Ahli at home, while promoted club Dubai FC meet Al Nasr.

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