‘Players must be perfect’ Zenga says of his Al Jazira side

Victory for Al Jazira could earn them a passage to the Last 16 in the Asian Champions League when they meet Iran’s Esteghlal, for whom a defeat means curtains, reports Amith Passela.

Abdelaziz Barrada, left, of Al Jazira will have to pass a fitness test before Wednesday’s Asian Champions League game. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // Walter Zenga, the Al Jazira coach, has called for his players to put in "90 great minutes" on the pitch when they host Esteghlal of Iran in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night.

Jazira head Group A on seven points and a win tonight – coupled with a defeat for Qatar’s Al Rayyan at home to Saudis Al Shabab – would seal their place in the last 16 of the tournament.

“The difference in playing 90 great minutes means the players must be perfect for the entire duration of the game,” Zenga said

“They have been fully focused and I have full trust in them to play to that plan. In my opinion it is useless to think about what the other team wants to do, but what is important for us is to focus and play our own game. If we can play to that plan we have a chance to win.”

Jazira have had a busy schedule, having to play in three different competitions. This will be their sixth game in 18 days, including trips to Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Abdulla Mousa, the Jazira midfielder, said: “We were a bit tired and under pressure in the last three games, having to play one game after the other in a very short time. I think after a five-day break we are fresh and ready.”

Zenga has rotated the players in the past five games but he said that has been because of suspension and injuries.

“I have the line-up against Esteghlal in my mind but I will wait until the last practice session to make sure all of them are 100 per cent for this match,” the Italian said when asked if there would by any changes.

Abdelaziz Barrada, the Moroccan international, suffered back spasms in the scoreless draw against Al Nasr in the league last Thursday and will have to pass a fitness test before the game.

“He is going to play only if he’s 100 per cent,” Zenga said. “He is a very important player for us and the medical staff is trying their best to have him ready for the game.”

Apart from Barrada’s fitness concern the defender Salim Ali will serve a one-match ban for two bookings.

The Esteghlal coach, Amir Ghalaenoei, sees this as a win or bust game as they are bottom of the group with one point earned from their home match against Jazira in a 2-2 draw. They are five points off second-placed Shabab with three games to play.

“This game is the last chance for us,” Ghalaenoei said. “We are not in a good position going into the second-round matches so every game is like a final for us.

“Football is like chess. At every game you have to pay attention to the opponent. We lost two games because of individual and tactical mistakes, and again, it was the same case against Jazira in the last game.”


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