Sebastian Tagliabue claims Al Wahda are a better team than Arabian Gulf League champions Al Jazira and hopes they can emulate their fierce Abu Dhabi rivals by using President’s Cup glory as a springboard to next season’s league title.
The Clarets face Al Nasr in tomorrow’s final – the showpiece game of the UAE football season – and Argentine hotshot Tagliabue believes victory at Zayed Sports City can “save” Wahda’s 2016/17 campaign.
“We are looking to end the season with a trophy and save the season,” said the 32-year-old, who bemoaned a campaign in which they have fallen short, including a group stage exit in the Arabian Gulf Cup, which they won last season.
“We were very bad in the Arabian Gulf Cup and no good in the league. In the Champions League we were at a good level but didn’t get the results. So we hope on Friday we can win and give some happiness to the Sheikh, the club, the fans.”
Wahda reached the final thanks to Hungary winger Balazsz Dzsudzsak’s stoppage time penalty in a 1-0 win over Sharjah, and Tagliabue believes victory on Friday is the first step towards a successful 2017/18 campaign – thereby following the lead of capital city neighbours, Jazira
“Al Jazira were horrible last season but even so they still played in the President’s Cup final. So I hope next year we can be champions,” Tagliabue, who bagged a hat-trick in the 6-0 quarter-final demolition of Jazira in January, said of the Pride of Abu Dhabi.
“There have been four clubs better than us this season. It was strange because if you see our team we have a good team. If you press me I think we have a better team than Al Jazira.
“The reality is Al Jazira won their games and we lost. For that they deserve to be champions and we are in fifth. I’m sure we have a better team. We beat them 6-0 without any help.”
There was little to separate Friday’s opponents in the league this term. Javier Aguirre’s side finished three points and one place above the Blue Wave, and Tagliabue expects there to be a similar margin between the sides in the final.
“It will be a truly difficult game,” said the striker who arrived from Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab in the summer of 2013.
“Before they were strong but before they made a lot of mistakes. Now with the new coach they are stronger.
“It’s a final so it’s 50/50. Anything can happen but I’m sure we will be good and I hope to get a good result. I have a feeling we will be great, but we never know.”
Tagliabue revealed he is desperate to finish the campaign by bringing another trophy home to Al Nahyan and Wahda’s loyal fans, who have only seen their side lift one title – 17 years ago – despite six appearances on the grandest stage
“I would like to win this a lot, of course, for my family and for the fans, the club, because they always support me and the team,” added Tagliabue, who is aware the team’s fans have grown restless this season.
“Sometimes it is normal they make mistakes on Twitter or Instagram, I hear this from my team-mates, but it is normal. They are angry we don’t win but most of the time they show us respect and support, which is not the same in every club.
“And we have a lot of local fans, which is something very special, and not normal. A lot of clubs bring in other nationalities to support the club.”