Eric Gerets would have certainly preferred to be fighting for a higher position in the penultimate round of the league, but instead the Al Jazira coach will be leading his team out at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Friday night in what could be the deciding battle for the runners-up spot.
With a three-point lead over Al Shabab, and a 4-3 win in the corresponding away fixture in December, the Abu Dhabi club are probably better placed than their rivals from Dubai, but Gerets will be missing three influential players — Mirko Vucinic, Jonathan Pitroipa and Khamis Ismail.
Without those three stars, Jazira could find it tough against Shabab, but Gerets knows he cannot afford any other result except a win. The Belgian is under contract until the end of next season, but his failure to win the league title has a put a big question mark over his future at the Abu Dhabi club.
Gerets is the seventh Jazira coach since Abel Braga led them to the league title in 2010/11 and the club could start looking for number eight if the team falters.
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No award for Abdulrahman
While the Al Ain fans get ready to celebrate their third title in four years, they will surely be disappointed to see Omar Abdulrahman’s name missing from the shortlist for this year’s Arabian Gulf League awards.
His absence from the list of 14 nominees for the Emirati Player of the Year award might seem inconceivable, but one of the conditions for nomination this year is the player should have played 60 per cent of the club’s matches.
Due to injuries, Abdulrahman has appeared in only 10 league matches this season, which means he is not eligible. Fair enough, but a UAE football awards night without “Amoori” picking up a trophy seems a bit strange.
Home comfort for Emirates?
Emirates must be glad they are through with their home matches for this season, for the Ras Al Khaimah club have clearly not enjoyed much luck on their own turf.
They have lost nine of their 13 AGL matches at Emirates Club Stadium and only Kalba have suffered as many defeats at home. The two other teams below Emirates on the points table, Al Dhafra (3 losses) and Ajman (6 losses) have done a lot better on their home ground.
Of course, Ajman have not won a single match at home until now, but Emirates did manage to win two — against Baniyas and Kalba. Still, they will be happy they are playing their final two games away from home.
Cajuda’s winless record
It has been 12 matches since Ajman’s last win in the AGL and the fans of the luckless team must be desperately hoping for their fortunes to change in the coming matches.
Of course, it would not make any difference to the team’s fortunes since they have been relegated, but it would be nice to end the campaign on a positive note. More importantly, the players must be keen to make sure they finish the season with at least one win at home and they have two matches to achieve those aspirations.
The coach Manuel Cajuda would also like to finally get a win for Ajman on his CV after going winless for 11 matches.
Is it possible? Well, Ajman’s last win of the AGL came in December at Emirates and the Ras Al Khaimah club are visiting them on Saturday. So, after two battling draws against Al Shabab and Al Wasl, this could be their moment.
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