Dubai: Sharjah have reaffirmed their confidence of reaching at least the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League next season.
Winners of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) last season, Sharjah will not be usurped as champions by Shabab Al Ahli Dubai as the UAE Pro League Committee (UAE PLC) decided to cancel the 2019-2020 season. They will also revert to results and standings of clubs from the previous season.
This means Sharjah will once again have the honour of playing in the Champions League along with President’s Cup winners Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and the next two finishers in the AGL, Al Ain and Al Wahda, when the new season kicks off with the Champions League in September.
“We go in as the champions for a second year and that should give our team a huge boost. We have a committed set of players who are sure they can aspire for something bigger when the preliminary rounds are held later this summer,” Abdullah Al Ajlah, Chairman of Board of Directors at Sharjah Football Company told Gulf News.
“This is a squad of players who now have the taste and experience to compete in a continental competition. Last year was the first time for most of them, and this season the goal will be to at least make it to the knockout round of 16.”
Sharjah managed just one point after their two preliminary round matches in Group C of the 2020 Champions League. They lost 1-0 to Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun Club on February 11 and then a week later held visiting Persepolis of Iran 2-2 to be at the bottom of the group with a match in hand against Qatar’s Al Duhail Club.
“Our players will have to now raise their game with the experience they’ve had after two matches in the AFC competition. Once they get back on the ground, they will need to exert more effort and focus more on the AFC competition so that the team can move forward and leave a legacy,” Al Ajlah said.
“We, as the board, are also committed to developing the squad, and now we have a fair idea of what is needed to make the club even more successful in all competitions. We have the ability to sign more players so that this squad gets even stronger and competitive for the challenges ahead.”
This season’s AGL was cancelled by the PLC late on Thursday with Sharjah way off the mark in fifth place while attempting to defend the title they won last season. With seven rounds of the AGL remaining, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were at the top of the league standings with 43 points after 19 matches, followed by Al Ain (37 points), Al Jazira (36), Al Wahda (35) and defending champions Sharjah (35) to complete the top five positions.
Late on Thursday, the extraordinary general assembly of the UAE Professional League decided to end the season without crowning new champions while maintaining all 14 teams in the current AGL set-up.
“We can rightfully continue with our celebrations as the defending champions for some more time. But once all this is done, we will need to refocus on the tasks ahead for the entire team,” Al Ajlah said.