Jazira’s Milla eyes elusive win

It has been a massive downturn for a club as big as Al Jazira. From being in contention for three pieces of silverware this season, they are staring at one. Al Jazira make the short trip down the road to Al Wahda for the only title they are capable of winning – the Etisalat Cup.

By James Jose

Published: Mon 25 Mar 2013, 10:12 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 AM

The Capital Derby, which is a late kick-off on Monday night, will see another famed battle between the two rivals in this semifinal fixture at the Al Nahyan Stadium. But Al Jazira need to get through this test the most and fight for a chance or the only piece of silverware they can get.

Al Jazira were six points behind League leaders Al Ain at one point but slowly slid down the table. They were then dumped out of the prestigious President’s Cup, of which they were the defending champions. So, a semifinal win and entry into the final of the Etisalat Cup could give the Abu Dhabi club some thing to cheer about.

But there is another sub-plot too, leading up to this fixture. Luis Milla, who replaced Paulo Bonamigo as coach, is still looking for his first win in charge. The Spaniard, who took over following Bonamigo’s axing, started with a 3-1 loss in the AFC Champions League against Iranian club Tractor Sazi. They then lost to Al Ain by a solitary goal in the League before being held to a 3-3 draw by basement dwellers Dibba Al Fujairah.

And in his fourth game in charge, Al Jazira battled to hold Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab to a draw in the AFC Champions League.

Milla felt that they could turn the tide on Monday night. “We are getting better and better and what we now need is a win. We want to play with the best team in each game. Now the national team players are with us and their experience will definitely going to benefit the team,” Milla said on the eve of the game.

Milla will be boosted by the return of his National team players – Khamis Esmail, Ali Khaseif and Ali Mabkhout – who returned after doing duty against Uzbekistan in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. “Khamis, Mabkhout and Khaseif played a good game. We are sure that they are going to help us,” Milla said.

“We will give our all from the first minute to the last minute because we want to win this game and reach the final. Al Jazira has the potential to win and we need this to build for our future. We have great ambitions and plans with our new training regime.

The transition period from one school of thought to another is not easy and we have faced many difficulties in getting the players to adapt to the new training philosophy and playing style, but I am very optimistic that it will start paying off in the coming weeks,” he added.

Al Jazira will be without their defender Shin Hyung-Min who is away on international duty for South Korea’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Qatar on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Al Wahda were represented by assistant coach Andrej Panadic as Branko Ivankovic had to return home to Croatia due to a bereavement in his family. But he is expected to be back in the dugout for the game.

Al Wahda, who have had an average couple of seasons, have improved dramatically and are in with a chance for two titles this season – the President’s Cup and the Etisalat Cup. “We know every detail about Al Jazira, and Al Jazira know every detail about us,” Panadic said.

“We have met them twice already this season. They beat us in the Etisalat Pro League and we beat them in the quarterfinal of the President’s Cup, which is a similar game to this one as it is a Cup knockout.

“We know the power of their players in every position but we have great confidence in our side that we can overcome them and make it to the final,” he added.

Al Wahda will miss the services of Dino Djulbic who is away on international duty with Australia for their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Oman on Tuesday.


More news from Local Sports