Al Jazira target holding first place in AGL at year’s end

Overhauling defence with new signings will not provide the answer, coach Gerets says
Al Jazira coach Eric Gerets looks on during an Arabian Gulf League match at Mohammed bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on September 20, 2014. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Al Jazira coach Eric Gerets looks on during an Arabian Gulf League match at Mohammed bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on September 20, 2014. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira finishing the year on top of the Arabian Gulf League is the objective of coach Eric Gerets when the team host Al Wasl on Friday.

A goal in stoppage time from Ali Mabkhout gave Jazira a 4-3 away win over Al Shabab on Sunday, and Gerets said his players could take positives from that result to end the first half of the campaign on a high.

“The late winner in that game certainly has helped us a lot to raise the morale of the players,” the Belgian said.

“If we can take this momentum forward, we have an opportunity to end the year and the first half of the league on top of the league table. This certainly is our objective.”

Gerets also warned his players of the new-found confidence of their opponents since Gabriel Calderon took charge of Wasl in mid-October.

Wasl have won their past three games and have accumulated 14 points from seven games under the Argentine.

“I watched them play Fujairah [Wasl won 3-1] in the last game and the result matched their performance,” Gerets said.

“They were excellent in the defence and they have players who are dangerous when they get inside the area. I can say we have a difficult game and I will need 150 per cent from my players for this game.”

Jazira possess one of the AGL’s best attacks, led by former Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic, the Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini, the Burkina Faso international Jonathan Pitroipa and the in-form UAE international Mabkhout.

Defence has been a problem, though, and they have conceded the second-most goals in the league after last-place Kalba.

“I am aware of our strength and weakness, but we will try to balance it when we play Wasl,” Gerets said when asked of his team’s strategy for the game.

“We are strong in attack, but the defence has been a bit of a problem. We need time to improve the weaker area because bringing down four new defenders will not be the answer.”

There are injury doubts over Jazira goalkeepers Ali Kasheif and Khaled Al Senani. “Kasheif is doubtful and Khaled has to pass a fitness test the morning of the match,” Gerets said.

“If not, we will have to call up the third keeper for duty.”

In today’s early kick-off, fresh from their first top-flight victory since February last year. Kalba travel to Ras Al Khaimah for a meeting with Emirates.

apassela@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 19, 2014 04:00 AM

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