Al Ain bid to tighten grip on top, Sharjah wary of Al Jazira challenge - GulfToday

Al Ain bid to tighten grip on top, Sharjah wary of Al Jazira challenge

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Sharjah players attend a training session ahead of their match against Al Jazira.

Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter

Leaders Al Ain will battle it out with Al Wasl in the top of the table clash to tighten their grip on the summit in the Round 7 of the Pro League on Thursday.

Sharjah have a chance to climb up to the second position in the rankings with a victory over Al Jazira in a match, which will kick-start the round at the Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium at 16:45 pm.

Al Ain are sitting in the pole position with 15 points, which they have procured with the help of five wins and one draw. They are still unbeaten in the league.

Al Ain are coming into the match on the back of two back-to-back victories. They defeated Al Feiah 4-1 in the AFC Asian Champions League to remain on the top of their group and boosted the hopes of progressing to the next round.

Three days later, they beat Emirates 3-1 in the sixth round match of the Pro League. With two back –to-back wins, their morale has sky-rocketed.

But one thing, the tight schedule can have a bearing on their performance. They will be in action for the third time within eight days. Such a tight schedule may take its toll on the players but their coach Alfred Schreuder ruled out that tight fixtures will hamper their performance.

“Certainly, this is a reality because we participate in all competitions, especially the AFC Champions League. But we have temporarily folded its page with the last match and shifted our focus on the league.”

“But I believe that our players are physically fit to play two or three matches per week, so consecutive matches should not be an excuse for us. Instead, we should be fully prepared for the Saturday match,” he said.

Schreuder confirmed that his team’s preparations for the match against Al Wasl went quite well.

“The team has had two training sessions so far after our last match in the League, and we are well aware of the importance of the upcoming match as we will face a strong team for sure,” he said.

“I believe that Al Wasl is a good team and has recently contracted with outstanding players in the offence, midfield, and defense. They have defeated Sharjah and Shabab Al Ahli, which means they are a good team. So, we need to be fully prepared for Thursday’s match.”

He refused to comment on Shabab Al Ahli’s player Suleiman’s red card. “Yes, I heard about this today. However, I don’t like to talk about other matches, so please let me speak about what happened in our match against Emirates Club as one of our players received a red card.

“It was in the opponent’s favor on the field, as we continued the match with only ten players. Bandar did not commit the foul intentionally because he did not actually see the opponent player, and when his foot collided with him, he seemed shocked.

“However, in the other match in which the red card was canceled, the situation seems different, and here I have no comment other than to say that justice should prevail in football.”

Meanwhile, Sharjah and Al Jazira are lying in the fourth and the fifth spots respectively. Sharjah have 12 points with four wins and two losses while Al Jazira have won three matches, lost two and drawn one.

Though Al Jaizra will have home advantage but Sharjah are brimming with confidence after having procured two consecutive victories from the last two matches.

They defeated Nasaf of Uzbekistan 1-0 in their AFC Champions League match before routing Bani Yas 5-0 in the Pro League five days later.

Sharjah coach Cosmin Olariou, who won the Best Coach of the Year Award, predicted a tough match against Al Jazira.

“They are a very strong team with a lot of quality players. And they are playing on their home ground, which makes them even more dangerous,” said Olariou.

“But, we are coming into the match on the back of two straight wins. Our morale is high and we are confident of coming back victorious,” he stressed.

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