Arabian Gulf League: Al Jazira manager Marcel Keizer rues lack of preparation time before Ajman clash

Month’s hiatus due to international break and Asian Champion League leaves table-toppers undercooked heading into final three games of season

Marcel Keizer's Al Jazira are one point clear of Baniyas at the top of the Arabian Gulf League. Courtesy Al Jazira FC
Marcel Keizer's Al Jazira are one point clear of Baniyas at the top of the Arabian Gulf League. Courtesy Al Jazira FC

Al Jazira manager Marcel Keizer has admitted his team are “not in the best preparation” for a return to domestic duties following a month’s hiatus due to the international break and Asian Champion League group games.

Jazira are fighting a close battle with Baniyas for the Arabian Gulf League title and only a point separates the two sides with three games left.

Keizer’s side are on 50 points, one ahead of Baniyas. Shabab Al Ahli are in third on 43 and close behind them are defending champions Sharjah and Al Nasr both on 42 each.

Jazira travel to Ajman on Monday, while Baniyas host Shabab Al Ahli in a full card of six games in matchweek 24.

“We are resuming the league after a month and that’s not the best preparation for us ahead of a very crucial game,” the Dutchman said.

“Of course it’s the same for all teams but for us it’s more important to win and maintain our lead. Obviously we want to win the remaining games but this game is the most important for us right now.”

The game is also significant for Ajman who are fighting relegation. “For us, every game is important at this stage,” said Ajman manager Ayman El Ramadi.

“I hope that our team will have a high degree of focus as we face the leaders. We want our players to show their real character, courage and confidence to play a distinguished game.

“We are confident they can achieve a good result as our team are aware of our position in the league.”

Baniyas has a tougher hurdle to overcome against the third-placed Shabab Al Ahli.

The Dubai side have already won both the Arabian Gulf Super Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup, and Emirati manager Mahdi Ali is determined to maintain their position just behind the top two clubs.

“We have had a hard time competing in the Asian Championship League and have haven’t had enough time to recover,” he said.

“The players haven’t had sufficient time to be in physical readiness but we will still do everything we can to achieve a positive result.”

Shabab Al Ahli will miss the services of their Brazilian forward Igor Jesus and defender Mohammed Marzouq because of suspensions.

“We are up against one of the most improved teams [Baniyas] this season and it’s a very important game for them as they can’t afford to drop any points at this stage of the league,” Ali added.

Published: May 2, 2021 02:39 PM

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