For AGL managers who fell short, President’s Cup is chance to make amends

Ahmed Rizvi writes for the collection of big club coaches who fell behind Al Ain this year, the President's Cup is their last chance at a tangible success - and may be necessary to save their jobs.

Eric Gerets led Al Jazira to second place in the Arabian Gulf League in 2014/15. Christopher Pike / The National
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Hours after Al Jazira beat Al Wasl 4-2 on Sunday to clinch second place in the Arabian Gulf League, a club spokesman announced coach Eric Gerets and his staff would continue working until the end of the season.

It was the second such statement from the club inside a month, but this time it seemed more than just a bid to dispel the speculation surrounding Gerets’s future at the club; it sounded more like an ultimatum.

“There will be a comprehensive assessment of the performance of the coaching staff and the players” after the end of the season and the club will then “make the appropriate decisions for the benefit of the team”, the spokesman said.

The President’s Cup could be crucial to Gerets continuing with the Abu Dhabi team, but he has a potentially difficult match against Ajman on Thursday with a spot in the quarter-finals at stake.

On paper, it might seem like a simple outing, the league’s second-best team against the second-worst. Ajman, though, seem more inspired playing against Jazira than the rest of the league. They have won the past two League Cup matches against the Abu Dhabi side and, though Jazira won the two league matches this season, it was not easy.

Gerets will hope to get through this match, for a first-round exit seems likely to bring his Abu Dhabi stay to an early end. But bigger challenges lie ahead with a possible quarter-final against Al Ahli and a potential semi-final against champions Al Ain or Al Wahda.

With those four heavyweights in the top half of the draw, the quarter-finals could be dynamite, but Wahda’s Sami Al Jaber is not looking that far ahead.

His team finished their league campaign on a high with a 5-1 win over Al Nasr, but that is in the past. Wahda meet Dubai on Thursday and facing a Division One side brings its own challenges, especially the “unknown” factor.

So the pressure will be on Al Jaber. His future, like that of Gerets, could depend on the team’s performance in the President’s Cup.

Ahli’s Cosmin Olaroiu is probably not in the same situation as those two, but he will be keen to get his hands on the President’s Cup, for he is not used to finishing seasons without silverware.

For three consecutive years, the Romanian won the league title here, but he has endured a disappointing season this time, losing Ahli’s AGL and League Cup titles.

The President’s Cup, then, is an opportunity to make amends. It was the only domestic trophy Ahli did not win last year, missing a chance to complete a historic treble at home when they lost to Al Ain in the final.

The importance of the President’s Cup could be even greater for Ahli this time around. It is their chance at redemption this season, but coach Zlatko Dalic and his league champions from the Garden City could play spoilers once again.

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