Al Jazira coach Damien Hertog (right) and midfielder Ernest Asante during the press conference.
The 2018-19 season of the Arabian Gulf League is coming to an end. On Sunday, the teams fight for a different goal as they battle for a spot in next season’s AFC Champions League. Going into the final day of the UAE league season, three teams (Al Ain, Al Wahda and Al Jazira) still have a chance of securing the last two spots for next season’s Asian Champions League.
The third-placed team will automatically qualify to the competition’s group stage, while the fourth-placed side goes into a preliminary round. Al Wahda face Al Ain in a decisive clash for both sides at Al Nahyan Stadium. The Clarets are fifth on 43 points, three behind third-placed Al Ain.
After an impressive performance throughout the second half of the season, Al Wahda moved to the top third of the table and still have a chance to play continental football next season.
On the other hand, the Boss dropped crucial points in the second half of the season, before regaining their balance in the past period. They’ve most recently defeated Al Wasl 5-1.
Al Jazira play with Al Nasr at Al Maktoum Stadium in another important clash for the top-four battle. The Pride of Abu Dhabi sit fourth on 45 points, while Al Nasr are eighth on 33 points.
Two relatively low profile matches take place on Sunday night. Al Dhafra, who sit 10th on 29 points, face seventh-placed Ajman at Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium, while Al Wasl face Ittihad Kalba at Zabeel Stadium. The Cheethas are ninth on 33 points, nine above 11th-placed Kalba.
Meanwhile, Al Jazira head coach Damien Hertog has called on his players to finish the season strongly as they aim to secure their place in next season’s AFC Champions League.
Fourth-placed Al Jazira travel to Al Nasr for Sunday’s Arabian Gulf League clash, knowing victory against the Dubai outfit will either see them clinch a play-off berth or even an automatic place in the Asian competition depending on other results. With plenty to play for, Hertog hopes his team can display their best football and end the 2018-19 season on a high.
“We really want to get a good result and finish the season on a winning note,” said Hertog during the pre-match press conference.
“It has been a long campaign and our aim has always been to finish as high as possible. We are in fourth position but there’s also a chance of claiming third position which can only be done by beating Al Nasr.”
He added: “This is a very important game but having seen my players train this week, the work rate has been excellent even though it’s the end of the season.
“There’s a lot of good spirit within the camp and it’s really good to see they have the desire to give their best and help achieve the best possible result for Al Jazira.”
The return of top-scorer Ali Mabkhout will boost Al Jazira’s bid of claiming of three points after being suspended while young defender Khalifa Al Hammadi (suspension) is the only absentee for Hertog’s side.
However, Hertog is aware of Al Nasr but is confident his team can create many problems for their opposition.
“We have done our homework on Al Nasr and we know they are a good side. But we have some very good players and I’m confident that if we play well, we can get a good result.”
Ghanaian midfielder Ernest Asante believes there’s no reason why they cannot take all three points.
“We know it will be tough especially as they are playing in front of their home fans but if we can play to our strengths, we can win the game and finish the season on a high,” he said.
Meanwhile, Al Jazira Sports Club have launched a new exciting community outreach initiative and are keen to hear from all communities in Abu Dhabi in shaping the future of the club. Residents can give their thoughts by completing a short survey and be in with a chance of winning a prize by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/aljaziraclub
Al Jazira Club was founded in 1974 following a merger between Al Khalidiyah Club and Al Bateen Club. Nicknamed as The Pride of Abu Dhabi, Al Jazira play their domestic and AFC Champions League matches at the 38,000-seater Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and is among the best clubs in the UAE.
1995 FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah is among the high-profile footballers to have played for Al Jazira, whose squad boasts talented UAE and foreign players. Al Jazira is well known for supporting the home-grown talents, and the club has the best football academy in the country; one of the academy top graduates is Ali Mabkhout, the historical goal scorer of Al Jazira, and the top scorer of the Asian Cup 2015.
Al Jazira Club has a rich and successful history, winning the Federation Cup in 2006, The Gulf Clubs Championship in 2007, as well as the Etisalat Cup in 2009-2010. Al Jazira also clinched the Arabian Gulf League in 2011 and repeated the feat in 2017. Their three President’s Cup successes were achieved in 2011, 2012 and 2016, while they also finished fourth in the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup.
Sharjah sealed the Arabian Gulf League title after earning a tough 3-2 win over Al Wahda in the penultimate matchweek of the campaign at Khalid Bin Mohammed Stadium on Wednesday night.
Al Wahda and Al Ain have sealed their qualification to the 2019/2020 AFC Champions League, while Al Jazira dropped to fifth place to miss out on next season’s Champions League.
Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi, Vice President of the UAE Football Association and Chairman of the UAE Pro League congratulated winners of the 2018-19 competitions.
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