UAE Champions Al Jazira will play Auckland City on December 6 at Hazza bin Zayed stadium at the FIFA Club World Cup, which is being held in the UAE for the second time. The Al Jazrawi fans are dreaming of a possible mouth watering clash againstthe Spanish giants Real Madrid, however their managerHenk Ten Cate, is preparing his team bynot getting ahead of themselves and taking it one game at a time.
The “Pride of Abu Dhabi” has played in the last nine AFC Champions League editions but so far the coveted trophy has eluded them. This will be Al Jazira’s first appearance in FIFA’s International Club Competition. The stakes are high and so is the pressure for the only club representing the host nation in the tournament.
Al Jazira opened this season with the record-breaking transfer of star Emirati striker Ahmed Khalil from his boyhood club Al Ahli, reportedly fora transfer fee of AED 18 million. However, Khalil’s injury woes have hindered his start at his new club. Shockwaves were sent through UAE football when last week reports were published that Khalil would break his current contract with the Abu Dhabi club to head back to his old home, recently merged together with two other clubs to form,Shabab Al Ahli Dubai.
The Arabian Gulf League defending champions have not yet commented on the transfer, but it seems most likely a done deal. This season has not started the way they would’ve planned with injuries midway to Ali Mabkhout and on going fitness issues with Ahmed Khalil but Al Jazira now seem to be getting back to winning ways slowly but surely. The added pressure of an international competition of this level along with carrying the nation’s hopes seems to mount for the AGL champions.
Now on a world stage, Al Jazira has the chance to create their own little piece of history. The FIFA Club World Cup could also serve as the perfect preview to prepare for a long season ahead in the AGL and AFC Champions League.
Going back to the current 2017-2018 Arabian Gulf League season, Al Jazira haven’t showed their best yet particularly during the 4-2 home defeat to Al Nasr, which was difficult to digest for their fans. With the FIFA Club World Cup a few weeks away, the club knows its time for them to step up.
LassanaDiarra’s past experience at Premier League giants Chelsea and Arsenal and at Real Madrid where he was part of the winning La Liga team in 2012 could prove to be vital at such a grand stage for Al Jazira. A tournament of this level could be the perfect home for Diarra.
Few will argue against the fact that all eyes will be on the “UAE’s best striker” Ali Mabkhout during this tournament. Last season, Mabkhout scored 31 goals, and ended the season with the golden boots. This season has been slow for the UAE international, but last week’s goal against Uzbekistan during the international friendlies could signal that Mabkhout is finding his form again.Ali has always been a player who steps up his game during major tournaments. He was the top scorer at the Gulf Cup in 2014 and AFC Asian Cup in Australia in 2015. Needless to say, Mabkhout will be carrying ut not just his club ban entire nation’s hope on his shoulders when he steps out on the field in December.
Recently, Khalfan Mubarak’s form has been impressive and along with Ahmed Al Attas, the two are considered the rising stars of UAE football. UAE’s new coach Alberto Zaccheroni picked the young midfielder for the two international friendlies and against Uzbekistan, he even came on for the UAE playmaker, Omar Abdulrahman. The youngster has apparently lifted the mood in the UAE camp with a fresh feel and more creativity in the midfield to set things up for Abdulrahman.
For now, preparation is the key and with Ali Mabkhout back to business after nursing injuries, Al Jazira will focus on one game at a time. The potential shock exit of Ahmed Khalil is not the best of news in the days building up to the big FIFA tournament in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
However, it is best to focus on the positives as the AGL defending Champions look to outdo themselves and put on a winning performance. Time will tell how the Al Jazira fairy tale ends.