Al Jazira will not take their foot off the gas in AGL ti­tle chase.

Ten Cate has full squad to choose for trip to Hatta where ev­ery­one ‘wants to play’ as Ahli are re­signed to re­lin­quish­ing crown

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Amith Pas­sela apas­sela@then­

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira have ev­ery chance of be­ing crowned Ara­bian Gulf League cham­pi­ons when they travel to Hatta to­mor­row.

A win over ninth-placed Hatta is well within the league lead­ers’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But even if that does not hap­pen, the Abu Dhabi side will cel­e­brate if reign­ing cham­pi­ons Al Ahli are held to a draw at home to Shar­jah.

Both games kick off at 6pm. Jazira top the ta­ble with 59 points, while Al Ahli are eight be­hind with three rounds to go.

Henk ten Cate, how­ever, wants his team to seal vic­tory rather than have to rely on a favourable re­sult at Rashid Sta­dium.

“We want to get this out [the ti­tle] as quickly as pos­si­ble,” the Jazira man­ager said yes­ter­day. “It won’t be an easy game be­cause Hatta will want to steal the spot­light from us.”

One pos­i­tive ahead of the game is the Dutch­man has a fit squad to choose from.

“We have a full squad avail­able and it be­comes so dif­fi­cult to se­lect the play­ing XI as ev­ery­one wants to play this game,” he said. “And in games like this I don’t have to say much to mo­ti­vate them.

Hav­ing said that, Ten Cate is wary of any com­pla­cency.

“Hatta is a pretty good side, par­tic­u­larly at home,” he said. “They have some de­cent play­ers and can pun­ish us if we take them easy.”

Cos­min Olaroiu, the Ahli man­ager, has al­ready given up hopes of the league ti­tle but he still wants to fin­ish sec­ond and book their a place in next sea­son’s Asian Cham­pi­ons League.

“There is no point talk­ing about the league.

“We all know where it’s headed to, but still have to fight for the sec­ond place and that’s what we want to do,” the Ro­ma­nian said. While to­mor­row’s games – which also in­clude fourth­placed Al Ain host­ing fifth­placed Al Wahda – fea­ture the league’s high-pro­file sides, tonight’s clashes will be just as cru­cial for the teams in­volved. Base­ment dwellers Baniyas and Emirates both face must­win games if they are to boost their chances of sur­vival.

Baniyas travel to Dubai’s Al Mak­toum Sta­dium for a meet­ing with President’s Cup finalists Al Nasr, while Emirates host Kalba, an­other club fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion.

Emirates and Baniyas are both five points from safety, and the lat­ter side’s man­ager, Ab­dul­wa­hab Ab­dulqadir, said he is more hope­ful than con­fi­dent of his team’s chances of se­cur­ing three points though.

“Our sit­u­a­tion re­mains the same since I took charge but we’ll fight un­til the end to re­main in the top flight,” said the Iraqi, who took charge of the struggling Abu Dhabi club in Jan­uary.

It is Ab­dulqadir’s third spell at the club af­ter lead­ing them their only President’s Cup tri­umph in 1992 and earn­ing them pro­mo­tion to the top flight in 1988.

He was ap­pointed as the club’s third man­ager of the sea­son af­ter Baniyas parted ways with Uruguayan Pablo Repetto and his suc­ces­sor Jose Gomes of Por­tu­gal. “Ev­ery­one knows how im­por­tant this game is for us,” Ab­dulqadir said. “We are fac­ing a strong team. They have qual­ity in both the mid­field and at­tack. But we don’t have any choice other than win this game to keep our hopes alive.

“We played a friendly match against Al Dhafra as part of our prepa­ra­tion for this game and we can take a lot of pos­i­tives out of it. If we can pre­vent Nasr from scor­ing early, then it will give our team the con­fi­dence.”

Baniyas prop up the ta­ble on 13 points along with Emirates, who have the same tally but are ahead on goal dif­fer­ence.

They are both five points be­low Kalba and Dibba, who play Al Wasl at home.

“It is a crit­i­cal round for all four teams,” Ab­dulqadir said. “The out­come of these games will make the pic­ture more clear for all the four teams.

“I hope we can re­turn with the three points.

“That would keep hopes alive un­til the next game. I have told my play­ers not to get pres­surised by the fact that this game will de­cide our fate.

“They all know how big a task they have in front of them. Aside from los­ing to Al Wahda I think we have done well against Wasl and draw­ing the last two games against Shar­jah and Kalba.

“Of course, we need to raise our level against Nasr and I’m pretty sure they will.”

Cour­tesy AGL

Ali Mabkhout, cen­tre, has scored 28 goals for Al Jazira in the league and tops the scor­ing charts for this sea­son. There are no in­jury con­cerns as they travel to Hatta.

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