Dubai: Defending champions Sharjah will start as strong favourites for the one-off Arabian Gulf Super Cup against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium at 8 pm on Friday.
Sharjah have played like true champions in keeping their top spot at the midway stage of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL). After 13 rounds, the defending champions have 10 wins, two draws and a lone loss away to Bani Yas in the 10th round of the competition.
Since then, the King have bounced back with three straight wins against Hatta, Ajman and Kalba to head the standings with 32 points. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai did have a solid start to their season but then went on a wane as they reached the mid-point of the AGL last week with just four wins, seven draws and two losses for the 19 points to occupy sixth place.
Sharjah defender Shaheen Abdul Rahman and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai playmaker Majid Hassan both predicted a tough contest between their teams as both wanted to add the Super Cup to their collection of trophies.
“Our ambitions have grown over the past few years and this has been seen with the on-field performances in recent times,” Abdul Rahman said at the pre-match zoom conference, late on Wednesday.
“We want to win matches every time we are on the field. We have gained momentum after winning the league title at the end of the 2019 season. We next won the Super Cup last season, and this is one trophy that we want to keep in our possession,” he added.
“My ambition for this side is huge. It’s always to ensure we are in the right frame of mind going into every match. Our target in Sharjah this season is to compete and win all titles, and the Arabian Gulf Super Cup will be the first among these this season. The team has put in a lot of efforts to reach the top, and it is our desire to ensure we keep our rightful place there,” he stressed.
The Sharjah skipper was not overawed with the presence of free-scoring Igor Jesus in the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai ranks. “We have been against tough opponents in the past as well, so our full respect as we face an opponent like Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. But we have this frame of mind that this is a final and we will be there focused on giving our best during every second on the pitch,” Abdul Rahman asserted.
“Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have a strong and well-balanced side too, but it will be our challenge to really rise to the task and return home with a win and the trophy,” he added.
Abdul Rahman admitted it was going to be a tough task to play a final without fans. “During the 2019 Arabian Gulf Super Cup we had our loyal supporters cheering us on. So this time we will miss them even more. But that will be a huge motivation for us to give more than 100 per cent so that we can win this first trophy of the season for our fans and supporters,” Abdul Rahman added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai captain Majid Hassan admitted that his team is focused on the title. “The idea is to win the trophy and then take the momentum forward as the second part of the league continues next week,” Hassan related.
“Playing Sharjah will never be easy as they have a fine blend of physical and technical abilities in their side. Our main focus will be control the match proceedings while keeping our concentration all the time. They’ve got players, especially someone like Igor Coronado who can make the difference. But we will have a plan in place to restrain him,” he promised.
Friday night’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup will be held under the ‘Our Winter is Super’ slogan, that was launched by the UAE Pro League in support of the ‘World’s Coolest Winter’ campaign that seeks to promote domestic tourism within the UAE.
CATCH THE MATCH
Arabian Gulf Super Cup
Sharjah vs Shabab Al Ahli Dubai
Date: January 22 (Friday)
Time: 8 pm
Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Al Nasr Club