Bank on the Brazilians at Wasl - stats ahead of Shabab Al Ahli clash

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One of the Arabian Gulf League’s glamour ties comes this Friday, electric leaders Al Wasl hosting a Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club side who have just entered a new era with ex-UAE coach Mahdi Ali.

A sell-out crowd took in this fixture last term and a similarly fevered atmosphere is expected at Rashid Stadium (19:30 kick-off).

Here are Three Deadly Stats to help preview the match:

WASL’S BRILLIANT BRAZILIANS

In Fabio De Lima and Caio Canedo, Al Wasl possess strikers to inject fear into any opponents.

The former – who inked a contract extension to 2022 on Wednesday – leads the way in the top flight with an incredible 11 goals in 10 2017/18 matches. His compatriot is not too far behind, notching seven times in the same amount of matches.

Wasl will need the duo to be at their best once again after recording two disappointing draws in a row. Both players account for 18 of the team’s 21 goals.

THE NOT-SO-MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

A breaking point comes even for a coach as successful and fearsome as Olaroiu.

Last Friday’s 1-1 stalemate with lowly Al Dhafra was their sixth successive in the AGL and seventh in all competitions. Less than 24 hours later, the Romanian’s trophy-laden four-year spell was brought to a premature end.

Replacement Ali must break this curse if he is to stand any chance of getting an extension to the six-month deal signed with the club he both previously played for and shortly led.

These results have placed Shabab Al Ahli in fifth, four places and seven points behind pace-setting Wasl.

ARRUABARRENA’S INVINCIBLES

The impact of ex-Boca Juniors coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena since his summer 2016 move to Wasl has been profound.

A team that had registered two-successive sixth-placed finishes under Argentine compatriot Gabriel Calderon was inspired to finish second in 2016/17. The Cheetahs have continued improving, a 25-match unbeaten run in all competitions fueling their charge.

In the AGL, they last tasted defeat to eventual champions Al Jazira on January 13 – 22 games ago. This means the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s record in the professional era of 28 top-flight fixtures without losing is within their sights.

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Shabab Al Ahli's Majed Hassan pays emotional tribute to Cosmin Olaroiu

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Grateful: Majed Hassan (Photo credit: Twitter/@alahlicclub).

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and UAE midfielder Majed Hassan has paid tribute to Cosmin Olaroiu following the sudden departure of the Romanian coach from the club.

Hassan had played under the tutelage of Olaroiu at Shabab Al Ahli for the past four and a half seasons during which they claimed two Arabian Gulf League titles and reached the final of the AFC Champions League.

A string of seven consecutive draws led to Olaroiu’s departure from the Dubai side on Saturday, with former UAE national team boss announced as his replacement.

“Thank you to the father who taught me how to play football and how to battle to reach the champion’s podium,” said the 25-year-old Hassan in a tweet on Monday.

“Thank you to the man who taught me to always strive for greatness and to never wake up from my dream until it is a reality. You will forever be the best in everything and will forever be the best in my heart.”

Al Ahli fans took to Twitter to bid farewell to Olaroiu using the hash-tag “shukran Cosmin” (thank you Cosmin), while ‘Mahdi Ali’ has been trending on the micro-blogging site in the UAE for the past two days.

The 48-year-old Olaroiu posted a message on his personal Instagram account on Sunday, describing his last six months with the club as “suffering”.

“Proud to be part of this path. Thanks everyone for messages and support I had a fantastic story for last 4 years,” read the message.

“And another 6 months of suffering. In this 4 years i don’t create a team i create men’s and warriors I make from each one from my small brothers a better version of themselves. I don’t win trophies and glory i won Love and Respect and i give my heart and passion.

“My mission finished here story finished also here, because is difficult to make football ‘with another people thinking’…but life continue I love and respect all of you guys You gone remain always my family ❤️❤️❤️”

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Cosmin Olaroiu has talent and desire to dispel myth Gulf is the graveyard of ambition

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On the move: Cosmin Olaroiu has departed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club (Twitter).

Even a man as belligerent and steeped in success as Cosmin Olaroiu has a breaking point.

The Arabian Gulf League found out where this was at the weekend, a seventh-successive draw in all competitions seeing Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and their respected Romanian – officially, at least – agreeing a release by “mutual consent” after four years of unprecedented success together.

This has left a cavernous gap in UAE domestic football, an arena he has pugnaciously dominated since Al Ain recruited him six years ago. The region’s foremost club coach has delivered 10 trophies and historic defeat in the 2015 AFC Champions League during his time within these borders, this figure being boosted to an unfathomable 14 when you add in the successes enjoyed at Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal since departing his native land a decade ago.

The question now is what comes next? Curing an ongoing – and painful – back condition will be foremost on the 48-year-old’s list of priorities, but a quick return to work is a must for this coaching behemoth no matter his wide-ranging interests and investments away from the beautiful game.

For the good of Middle East football and for his own sense of professional pride, his next step must be a return – and hopefully a glorious one – to Europe. This would add to the weight of evidence that Asian football only offers a dead-end move for the unambitious.

Olaroiu has the ability, influence, tactical acumen and rampant desire to excel anywhere. Now is the time for the 2005/06 UEFA Cup semi-finalist with Steaua Bucharest to put this statement to the test on the old continent.

Offers, surely of a lucrative nature to match the reputed €6.5 million (Dh28.4m) per year arrangement with Shabab Al Ahli, will flood in from across the Arabian Gulf. He appears a natural fit at Al Jazira if the champions’ struggles under Henk ten Cate continue, while he remains a prized candidate in Saudi no matter his controversial and forced departure from Hilal or troubled loan spell with the national side at the 2015 Asian Cup.

No matter the figures on offer, a polite ‘no’ should follow.

Leading his native Romania remains a pipe dream for Olaroiu after Cosmin Contra recently pipped him to the post. But his force of personality would be perfect to rouse fallen Scottish giants Rangers and provide the antidote to their failed Qatari experiment with Pedro Caixinha.

If Bundesliga basement boys Cologne are looking for an instant uplift, they should look no further.

Of Olaroiu’s recent AGL alumni, Zlatko Dalic has parlayed steady success at Al Ain into leading Luka Modric and his fellow Croatia superstars at next summer’s World Cup.

Even erratic journeyman Walter Zenga was given a shot at ambitious Championship-outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers last term.

A failure to navigate the tricky waters caused by May’s shock merger at Rashid Stadium and ongoing withdrawal of investment should not count against Olaroiu replicating these moves.

Given the chance, he will top them all.

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