Dubai: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coach Mehdi Ali is hoping his side can carry forward their momentum from last week going into the 19th round of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) against Dibba, on Friday.
Defending champions Shabab Al Ahli Dubai was the dominant side in their home goalless draw of the Arabian Gulf Cup last week. The result handed out several positives to the coach, the most important one of being able to dictate terms to a superior opponent like Al Wasl.
“There is no doubt that this is an important game for us. I can only hope that we continue at the same level as we did against an organised and solid team like Al Wasl. Even though we didn’t manage a win we still proved that we are improving as a unit and that we are capable of playing on our terms against stronger sides,” Ali told media on Wednesday.
“We have done well to turn the corner, and it would certainly help if we can continue this momentum going into the last few rounds of the league,” he added.
With the final four rounds remaining, Al Ain leads the standings with 41 points followed by Al Wahda (37) and the two neighbours from Dubai Al Wasl and Al Nasr with 32 points apiece. Defending champions Al Jazira seem to have lost their momentum for a second straight title as they remain in fifth with 25 points, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai are sixth with 24.
The club from Al Ghusais has been showing indifferent form this season with the second round of the AGL fetching them uninspired results. They drew 1-1 to Dibba the last time the two teams played in Dubai and then lost to Ajman 1-2. But they did well to hold leaders Al Ain and get maximum points away to Emirates Club before going down by a solitary goal at home to Sharjah. However, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have done well to get four points in their last two matches — a goalless draw against Al Wahda followed by a hard-fought 2-1 win against defending champions Al Jazira in Round 18.
“These are results that will give us a lot of confidence for sure,” Ali agreed.
“We need to just carry on with the hard work. We have some good results against the stronger teams, but we have dropped points against the weaker ones. These are situations that we cannot avoid, but try our best to work around these,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will once again be without some of their key players as they join the national team travelling to Thailand for the King’s Cup to be held in Bangkok from March 22-25. Slovakia and Gabon are the two other teams joining the UAE besides the hosts.
“These are the situations I was talking about. We have to play Al Wasl in the return leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final without some of our main players. So while we are concentrating on the league, we also need to be prepared for the other competitions while giving other players a chance,” Ali said.
“These players from the bench may not have played for some time, but they need to be prepared any way when called,” he added.
(Friday) 5.40 Dibba vs Shabab Al Ahli Dubai; 5.45 Al Nasr vs Hatta; 8.30 Al Wahda vs Emirates
(Saturday) 5.45 Sharjah vs Ajman; 5.50 Al Dhafra vs Al Wasl; 8.30 Al Jazira vs Al Ain