Shabab Ahli won’t be fooled by Al Wasl’s form

Slump will count for nothing in Arabian Gulf Cup semis first leg, Mahdi says

14:00 March 8, 2018
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Mahdi Ali

Dubai: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Mahdi Ali knows Al Wasl’s poor form will count for little ahead of their Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final first leg at home to the Cheetahs from 8.15pm on Friday.

Al Wasl have lost their last four games across all competitions and only have one win in the last eight matches.

They have also slipped from first to third in the second half of the Arabian Gulf League and are rooted bottom of their Asian Champions League group after opening with three defeats.

On the contrary, Shabab Ahli have turned the corner on their disastrous form that saw them go 10 games without a win in the league from October to January, to win twice in February, leaving them sixth in the table.

Ali’s side will now look to use that revival to salvage something from the season in the cup competitions, but seeing as Al Wasl are in a similar situation, he says it won’t be easy, and the Cheetahs shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Our players will not be fooled by the negative results of Al Wasl recently, and will be focused on achieving a positive result,” he said.

“Cup matches have a special character and each team seeks to win. We want to take advantage of the game at home and achieve a positive result. I expect the game to be strong, especially as each team is interested in winning the Arabian Gulf Cup. I have great confidence in the players and their ability to manage the game.”

Al Wasl coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena, whose side haven’t lifted a trophy since the GCC Champions League in 2010, said: “I know how much the fans want to win this title.

“The league has been 99 per cent decided, so in the coming period we will strive to get into at least one cup final,” he added, in reference to Al Wasl also still being in the President’s Cup quarter-finals, where they will play Dibba on April 11.

Shabab Ahli also have that last shot of silverware still available to them and will play Sharjah on April 12 in the President’s Cup quarters.

In the other Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final first leg, Al Wahda take on Dibba at home from 5.45pm on Friday.

Al Wahda too, have suffered setbacks recently losing their top of the table clash with Al Ain last week to settle for second with four games to go in the league and losing their opening three group games in Asia.

That said they should make light work of Dibba, who are currently fourth from bottom in the league.

“We have enough motivation to bypass the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals and win the title,” said Al Wahda coach Laurentiu Reghecampf. “But we know the Dibba game will be difficult.”

Dibba coach Paulo Comeli, said: “The game is very important for our team. We have made history with this club by qualifying to this stage and we will try to get as far as possible.”

Both sides are also still in the President’s Cup quarters, Al Wahda play Al Jazira and Dibba face Al Wasl, with both matches to be played on April 11.

The second legs of the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals will be held on March 22.