Al Jazira, nicknamed The Spider or the Pride of Abu Dhabi, are not one of the bigger clubs in UAE football, only succeeding in the last decade, sort of like a Manchester City of the UAE with their big money transfers (over the years they have signed with George Weah, Manuel Lanzini, Thiago Neves, Ricardo Oliviera, Jefferson Farfan and Mirko Vucinic). Actually, their Chairman, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is also the owner of the ADUG group which acquired Manchester City and helped them become a bigger club over the years.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have only two league titles to their name, winning their first one in 2011 before winning it recently in 2017. They also won three editions of the UAE President’s Cup, all of them coming after 2010. Regionally and continentally, they only have one title, which is the GCC Champions League back in 2007 when they first came onto the scene as a club looking to make its mark on Emirati football after 33 years of not winning a trophy.
This season, however, their performances have been very poor which led to fans from the UAE and abroad giving them slim chances of progressing against Auckland, let alone Urawa Reds. In the league, they are sitting in fifth place with 16 points, albeit they do have a game in hand and can move into fourth place. However, this is a far cry from their performances last season.
Yet, coach Henk Ten Cate has built them into a compact unit ahead of this important period. Despite the absences of Emirati star Ahmed Khalil, Al Jazira have a plethora of attacking options in Romarinho, Sardor Rashidov, Mbark Boussoufa, local icon Ali Mabkhout and youngsters Khalfan Mubarak and Ahmed Al Attas. They have all contributed to Al Jazira’s strength on the counter attack which led to both of their goals in the CWC this season.
This will be they key for them to have any chance of getting a result against Real Madrid: counter attacking. Sitting deep and using their speed on the counter attack is one part, but having reliable and confident finishers in Romarinho and Ali Mabkhout is the ultimate complement to this football philosophy. Will the team defeated by UAE minnows Dibba this season manage to defeat the European Champions?