With Melbourne City's first match against Al Jazira, melbournecityfc.com.au takes a closer look at Sunday’s opponent.
Al Jazira was founded in 1974 and competes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Arabian Gulf League. The league consists of 14 teams and runs from September through to May, so Al Jazira are currently in domestic competition and were crowned Winter Champions and currently sit first in the 2014-15 season after 13 matches.
Al Jazira have scored 37 goals and conceded 26, making them the most prolific in front of goal, but shaky at the back, with the side having the third worst defensive record in the league.
The side is coached by Belgian legend Eric Gerets, who earned 86 caps for his country as as player. Melbourne City FC’s Dutch defender Rob Wielaert played under Gerets at PSV Eidhoven during the 2001/02 season. Gerets took the reigns this season from Walter Zenga, who steered Al Jazira to third in the league in 2013/14.
Each club in the Gulf League is afforded up to four (4) visa players and it is one of the side’s foreign players, Montenegro international striker Mirko Vucinic (pictured above) who is the side's danger man in front of goals.
The 31-year-old striker joined Al Jazira from Italian Serie A giants Juventus at the start of this campaign and is already leading the goal-scoring charts in the UAE Gulf League with 16 goals.
Other players to watch include 21-year-old Argentinian Manuel Lanzini who previously starred at River Plate and played for the Argentina u20s, Brazilian centre midfielder Jucilei – formerly of Corinthians and Anzhi – and Jonathan Pitroipa, a 28-year-old Burkina Faso international winger.
The winger formerly played in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga and was Player of the Tournament at the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
Al Jazira will miss two of its home grown stars to the Asian Cup, with UAE international star striker/winger Ali Mabkhout competing in the tournament.
Sunday, 11 January 2015
Al-Jazira Club vs. Melbourne City FC
Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-Off: 7pm (local), 2am (AEDT)