Mahdi Ali Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Mahdi Ali has called on his Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club to stay “calm and focused” as they tackle a resurgent Al Ain in their semi-final of the President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Ali’s men battled their way past Sharjah by a solitary goal, while Al Ain powered their way past Diego Maradona-coached Fujairah Club 4-2 in their respective quarter-finals last week. The club from Al Ghusais will have their task cut out as they try and contain an opponent that is on a high following a record 13th title in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) last weekend.

“Honestly, we don’t need to think more than we have to. We have to concentrate on our game and stay calm and focused all the time,” Ali told media at the prematch conference on Monday.

“I have asked my players not to overthink this match. This is perhaps the most important match for us this season as it will determine a lot of things for the future. My instructions to all of them, including support staff, is to stay calm, focused and prepare ourselves mentally for such an important game. I think this will be the most important thing for us all,” he added.

Ali further related that he expects everyone, including the travelling band of supporters, to stay disciplined throughout. “All instructions that I give to the players need to be followed and there are going to be no short cuts for anyone,” the coach said.

“All of us have spoken on the strong points of Al Ain. But we also know that they have their weaknesses, and this is what we will be looking at exploiting during the match,” he added.

After a long time, the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coach has the luxury of choosing from a full squad, except those on the long-term list such as Manae Mohammad and Henrique Luvannor. Star striker Makhete Diop is also expected to start on Wednesday.

“The good thing is that everyone is focused and all have the ambition to play the final and do their best to get there. This is one match that will be tight and may even go into the tiebreaker. So we need to be prepared for that situation as well,” Ali said.