Al Jazira and Baniyas face day of reckoning in Arabian Gulf League title battle

Jazira, one point clear at top, face Khorfakkan on Tuesday knowing that victory will make them champions

Al Jazira’s Mohammed Rabie reacts after scoring the opening goal with Caio (No.7) on left in the Arabian Gulf League top of the table clash at Sharjah stadium on Friday, February 26, 2021. Courtesy PLC
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Al Jazira manager Marcel Keizer insisted his team does not need “any special ploys” for their potentially Arabian Gulf League title-winning match against Khorfakkan.

Jazira tops the league table on 54 points, one more than their Abu Dhabi rivals Baniyas, who are bidding for a maiden league title, as the competition reaches a climax on Tuesday.

“We have prepared well as we usually do and have not worked out any special ploys for this important game,” Keizer said.

“The league race is straightforward now. We have to go out there and win the game, which would give us the league title. That’s what we intend to do on the night, just go out there and win.

“We all know it’s a big game for us and it’s a moment we all have been waiting since the whole season.

“The players are aware of what they need to do on the pitch. It’s never easy when you are in this situation. Nerves and emotions can play a big part, but I’m confident our players have the experience and above all, the character to come out tops on the night.”

Khorfakkan shocked Jazira 3-0 in their first meeting but Keizer is confident that result will not have any impact on their home turf.

“They are a good side and our defeat at their hands is evidence of that but we have moved on from that result and meeting them as the league leaders,” he said.

“It is a different scenario. Having said that, we don’t take anything for granted against any opponent.

“We have the full squad at our disposal but playing three games in nine days may be a small setback, if we face any hindrance. Otherwise, we are in great shape both mentally and physically for this game.”

Baniyas manager Daniel Isaila knows his team must take three points in their game against Al Wahda and hope that Khorfakkan do them a favour against Jazira.

“We can only try to win our game and keep our fingers crossed for the result of the other game,” the Romanian said.

Baniyas’ Argentine midfielder Gaston Suarez goes on the offensive in their 2-1 in over Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf League at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium on Tuesday, March 17, 2021. Courtesy PLC
Baniyas midfielder Gaston Suarez in action during their Arabian Gulf League win over Al Ain on Tuesday, March 17. Courtesy PLC

“In football, everything is possible. Khorfakkan has an opportunity to help us create a piece of history. Whether we win the league or not, I’m very proud of my team and their achievements this season.”

Fujairah and Ajman clash in a battle for top-flight survival. They are on 15 points each and one of them will join the already relegated Hatta.

Fujairah has a game in hand against Al Wahda, which was postponed as the latter were engaged in the Asian Champions League in India and had to serve a quarantine period as part of Covid-19 protocols on their returns.

“The relegation battle is like the top two teams vying for the league title,” the Fujairah manager Nassif Al Bayawi said.

“It is true we have a game in hand but the game against Ajman is critical for us. We will feel safe only if we can win this game even though a draw will give us another opportunity.”

The Ajman manager Ayman El Ramadi wasn’t happy with the scheduling of the Fujairah-Wahda match which is played after their meeting.

“We should have been given that option to play our final league game after the postponed game between Fujairah and Wahda,” the Egyptian said.

“That would have given a fair chance. Now Fujairah has an advantage if they draw the next two games.

“We are coming into this game after two tough games in six days against Jazira and Sharjah. We also played at two different timings, the first at 11pm and the other at 9pm. It gives lesser recovery time to our players.”

In the other games, Sharjah (48 points) will be hoping to keep their third place when they travel to Kalba while Shabab Al Ahli (47) meet Al Nasr (46), Al Ain are at home to Hatta and Al Wasl play Al Dhafra at the Zabeel Stadium.