Leonardo omitted from Al Jazira's AFC Asian Champions League squad

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The influential midfielder has been given a rest by Henk ten Cate.

Leonardo was integral to South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’ triumph in the Asian Champions League (ACL) last year but won't be given the opportunity to shine on the same stage just yet this time around as he's been left out of Al Jazira’s squad for the 2017 tournament.

While the news comes as a shock to many, head coach Henk ten Cate has his reasons.

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"He was the best player in the ACL last year but I took him out of the list because he just finished a full competition in Korea," the Jazira manager said ahead of their Group B opener away to Qatari club Lekhwiya on Monday night.

"Leonardo arrived after a tough competition [in Korea] and you could see he’s close to breaking down physically. This is what we don’t want to happen."

Ten Cate’s main objective was to secure the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) which they lead by nine points with seven games left. However, the Dutchman insists that they will be fighting on all fronts.

"As a team, we want to take what comes first to us, and it’s the AGL  that’s closer to us than the ACL, and that’s the team’s priority," he said.

"This is why we need Leonardo for the domestic league. He’s valuable for us for our AGL campaign."

As a replacement for Leonardo, Jazira have named the Brazilian centre-back Joao Carlos as part of their four foreigners in the squad.

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"This is the first game which isalways difficult because we don’t know so much about the teams besides watching them on television," Ten Cate said. "Lekhwiya is the strongest team in the group so it’s a huge challenge for us.

"We are ready but unfortunately we are not complete as we don’t have some players due to injuries."

Qatar's Lekhwiya are in their sixth successive ACL campaign and will be desperate to improve on from their last home game in the continental competition when they lost 4-0 to compatriots El Jaish in the 2016 round of 16.

 

 

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