Dubai: Saturday’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup is all set to provide the perfect start to the football season with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai banking on history to get the better of first-timers Sharjah at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium.
Kick-off has been slated for 8.30pm with Shabab looking stronger on paper going into the first trophy tussle of the season against an opponent who have never before featured in this one-off season-opening competition.
Runners-up in the relaunched Arabian Gulf League (AGL), Shabab have been a solid unit starting from the beginning of 2019 following the arrival of coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena. This threat has been further enhanced after the Al Ghusais-based club got the services of Al Wahda striker Leonardo da Silva Souza to play alongside either the speedy Henrique Luvannor or former Asian player of the year Ahmad Khalil.
The 27-year-old Leonardo has been among the most lethal in the two years he has spent so far in the Gulf following his transfer to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in 2017 from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. Leonardo an impressive goalscoring record in the Gulf, with 10 goals in 19 matches for Al Ahli and another 13 goals in 21 matches for Al Wahda last season.
While Arruabarrena will have loads of attacking options, Sharjah cannot be taken lightly as Abdul Aziz Al Anbari’s team is more than capable of springing a surprise like they did while winning their first league crown since 1996, last season. After two losses in the group stages at this season’s Arabian Gulf Cup, Sharjah riding on a Ricardo Gomes hat-trick for a 5-0 mauling of Ajman.
Gomes, who joined Sharjah from Serbian side Partizan earlier this summer, looks to be the perfect replacement for Wellinton Soares, who got a transfer to Dubai’s Al Wasl from the start of this season. “I don’t know Shabab Al Ahli Dubai too well, but I know they are a good team and we are learning all about them in training,” the international from Cape Verde admitted.
“Last week’s hat-trick has done a lot of good as far as the confidence goes. I am used to treating every match with the same concentration, regardless of the opposition. This will be my fourth match here, and it would be great to win a trophy,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s Swiss midfielder Davide Mariani is also excited about the prospect of a first-ever trophy for him with his new club. Mariani, who landed in Dubai from Bulgarian side Levski Sofia, has been an important cog in Arraubarrena’s plans as the club heads Group A with seven points after three matches so far.
“I have been receiving a lot of support from everyone to help me adjust to this new place. I feel like we have a team spirit and that will surely help us to achieve great things together,” he said.
“I’ve heard that Sharjah is a strong team. But there are no secrets as we have to be at our best and give more than 100 per cent to win our first trophy,” the Swiss added.
Catch the Match
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai v Sharjah Club
Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Al Nasr Club
Hosts: Singer Amal Mohammad and TV presenter Saeed Al Mammari
Attractions: Range of prizes for fans including a raffle draw for an Audi A3 car
Tickets: Dhs 20, 30, 50 and 200 for VIP