How Al Jazira can stop Real Madrid in the Club World Cup semi-final
The Arabian Gulf League champions will be up against it when they face Zinedine Zidane's side and here is a look at three areas they will need to exceed if they are to be competitive at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday.
Al Jazira face on Wednesday night at Zayed Sports City the challenge that many of Europe's top clubs have failed to achieve in 2017. How to stop Real Madrid?
Zinedine Zidane's men won the Primera Liga in May and became the first side since AC Milan in 1990 to retain the European Cup as they won the Uefa Champions League for the second successive season by beating Juventus 4-1 in the final in Cardiff in June.
Here is a look at the areas that Jazira are going to have to exceed in if they are to compete against Madrid.
Stopping Ronaldo and the forward line
Five goals up by half time against Sevilla on Saturday, Madrid have found their shooting boots in time for the Club World Cup. So, how to shackle Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio and the rest?
Luckily Jazira have Ali Khaseif in goal, whose performance in the play-off against Auckland City last week earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Centre-backs Fares Juma and Musallem Fayez are vastly experienced, too, although Madrid form an altogether different proposition to what they usually face.
It will require very much a collective effort, from the forwards right back to Khaseif.
Mining midfield for success
What a few months for Mohammed Al Attas. A promising academy player, the versatile defender has been thrust into the UAE champions’ line-up this season.
On Saturday, he starred at the base of midfield, helping lay the platform for Jazira to defeat Urawa Red Diamonds.
Up next? Just Real Madrid, champions of Spain, Europe, the world. Al Attas will need another strong display against the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro, but what an experience.
The energetic Yaqoub Al Hosani will most probably snap into challenges beside him, while much will rest on Mbark Boussoufa’s experience and expertise in retaining possession.
Shooting at the stars
Jazira’s journey to the last four had been built upon team spirit, but their match-winners have been Romarinho and Ali Mabkhout up front. The pair has scored both their goals, with Romarinho in particular shining with his all-round game.
Mabkhout is the UAE’s star striker, winner of the Golden Boot at the 2015 Asian Cup, and scored a record-breaking 33 goals in 25 league matches last season.
However, he is a serious doubt having picked up an injury against Urawa. That blunts Jazira significantly, although should he be passed fit, it will be interesting to see if Mabkhout’s pace can cause Sergio Ramos problems in the Madrid defence.
Updated: December 12, 2017 11:19 PM