Al Jazira look to bounce back against Mumbai

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Al Jazira players attend a training session ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Mumbai FC.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

UAE’s Al Jazira FSC will have their work cut out for them when they meet Mumbai City of India in Group B of the AFC Champions League 2022 at the King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday.

Al Jazira are still searching for their first win, while Mumbai City became the first Indian club to win a game in the tournament when they defeated Iraq’s Air Force Club on Matchday Two.

The UAE Pro League side have never met Mumbai City and the Matchday Three encounter will be the first time Marcel Keizer’s Al Jazira face a team from India.

Al Jazira let slip a one-goal advantage to lose 2-1 against Iraq’s Air Force CLub on Matchday One and the Emiratis suffered more woe after conceding three goals against Group B leaders Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.

Two consecutive defeats have placed Al Jazira at the bottom of the group and Keizer said it is a must win game against Mumbai CIty.

“We are just disappointed about the results, especially after losing against Al Shabab,” said Keizer. “It’s a must win game against Mumbai City.

“They are a strong team and we know what we have to do to beat them. We will try hard to get that first win and hopefully better results will follow in the next few games.”

“Yes, we miss Miloš Kosanović because of injury, he has been a big player for us and I think we conceded too many goals over two matchdays. But I still think we have good defenders. We have some younger players in the squad and it’s good for them to play at this level of competition. Defending in a game is not just limited to defenders but lies with the whole team.

“We are facing a very good footballing side in Mumbai City. I’ve seen them play here as well as watched them in the domestic league. They are an attacking team and I will not underestimate them.”

Mumbai City began their campaign with a 3-0 defeat against Al Shabab but the Indian Super League side bounced back to win their second match, overcoming Air Force Club 2-1.

Following the historic achievement of winning their first AFC Champions League match, Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham wants his team to stay focused against Al Jazira.

“It’s a game we’re looking forward to, our third game in over eight days and it’s good that we’re getting some rest and recovery ahead of the match,” said Buckingham. “The mood in the squad is good and we have the majority of the players available and we’re getting ready for the game as best we can.

“We have spent six months playing in the domestic league and several weeks in Abu Dhabi preparing for the tournament and we’re here trying to achieve what an Indian team has not achieved before in this competition. So far, we have done well and managed to win our first match after two games.”

Meanwhile, head coach Hernan Crespo has vowed to march on after claiming their first win, with Al Duhail SC to  face off against Pakhtakor FC on Matchday Three of Group D in the AFC Champions League 2022 at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium on Thursday.

With the midway point of the group stage just around the corner, all four teams in the group are tied on three points with a win and a loss each.

Al Duhail’s campaign had a rough start, losing out against group hosts Al Taawoun, but they did bounce back beating Sepahan FC in the previous round, with Michael Olunga scoring late on to secure a 1-0 win.

Edmilson has impressed in both games, providing the bulk of the attacking threat for the Qatar Stars League side, and capping it off with an exceptionally taken goal on the opening day.

“The game against Sepahan was a difficult one,” said Crespo. “We managed to get the three points though, and that’s what we hope to achieve when we face Pakhtakor in our next match.

“I think they are a formidable side and will be a tough challenge, we saw what they can do when they faced Al Taawoun. They are a good attacking side too, yet we have a strong defence that can counter their threat. I’m confident in our abilities.”

Similarly, Pakhtakor’s AFC Champions League campaign started off with a 3-1 reversal against Sepahan, in which Dragan Ceran initially took the lead for Uzbek Super League champions before three second-half Sepahan goals sealed their fate.

They did bounce back with a win against Al Taawoun with the lively Khojimat Erkinov – creator of Ceran’s goal against Sepahan – coming on as a substitute and scoring the winner.

Head coach Slavce Vojneski appeared to have reasons for the first defeat, but asserted the level of preparedness his side had reached coming into their next match.

“Al Duhail are a big side, on paper they are the strongest in the group,” said Vojneski.

“In the first game, we lost because of travel issues and minor mistakes. We have prepared very well for this game in the knowledge that they are an experienced side with several internationals. We managed to bounce back in the last game from our first loss, so now we’re in it with a shout.

“It is very difficult to play so many games in a short period of time, this pressures both the players and the coaching staff really hard. Either way, we have to adapt in order to achieve good results. We will do this  for ourselves and our fans back in Uzbekistan.”

The two sides have met previously back in the 2013 edition of the AFC Champions League when Lekhwiya, Al Duhail’s predecessor, managed a 3-1 win in Doha followed by a 2-2 draw in Tashkent, all within six days.

The game in the Uzbek capital saw the fastest goal in AFC Champions League history when Sebastian Soria opened the visitors’ account after only 12 seconds.

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