Dubai: Al Ahli coach Quique Sanchez Flores is keen to get off on the right foot when the team travel to neighbours Al Shabab in their Etisalat Cup opener Tuesday.
“We have been working hard for the start of this season and we need a winning start as it is important for confidence,” Flores said.
With the Etisalat Super Cup officially opening the season late on Monday, the 14 teams in the elite league of UAE football will kick off the new season with the opening round of the Etisalat Cup.
New entrants Al Shaab host Dubai Club, while Ittihad Kalba take on Bruno Metsu’s Al Wasl in the two early matches today. Later tonight, Al Shabab will play Al Ahli in the late kick-off game.
Flores added: “The pressure will always be there as we are the defending champions. Every game is very, very important and we are thinking only about winning. The important thing for me is to focus on continuing where we left off last season by keeping the spirit and dynamics in tact.”
Meanwhile, new coach Marcos Paqueta is facing a testing time as he seeks to rebuild an Al Shabab side that was ditched by fellow Brazilian Paulo Bonamigo in favour of former champions Al Jazira.
“My team is motivated. We were lucky to have a good camp in Germany and we did some great work there playing a lot of friendlies. But what was most important is that I got the chance to see the old players and have a look at some new faces too,” Paqueta said.
The Brazilian, who has previously coached Al Shabab, welcomed the fact that the Etisalat Cup kicked off the new season. “All teams will need time to adapt after spending time in Europe. And while I hope we have a good start, I will also use a competition like this to try out some new players,” he added.
In tomorrow’s action, Al Dhafrah will host Bani Yas and Ajman will play Dibba Al Fujairah in the early games, while Al Nasr will entertain Al Wahda in the late-night match.