The UAE League Cup will be known as the Arabian Gulf Cup as of this year's final between Al Jazira and Al Ahli on April 19 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
Previously known as the UAE League Cup, Jazira and Ahli will now compete to lift the Arabian Gulf Cup having reached the Final with semi-final victories over Al Dhafra and Sharjah respectively.
The new identity of the Arabian Gulf Cup Final comes complete with a redesigned logo, and an increased partnership with Arabian Gulf Development, who will now be Title Partners for the Final.
News of the re-branding was announced by the Pro League Committee (PLC), who hold all commercial rights of the leagues that fall under the UAE Football Association's umbrella.
PLC chairman Mohammed Thani Murshed Al Romaithi commented: “As you can see from the new name and new logo for the Arabian Gulf Cup Final, it reflects a great synergy between the League and the Cup, and demonstrates the continuing strength of our partnership with Arabian Gulf Development.
"As with the Arabian Gulf League, that the Cup Final will now carry the Arabian Gulf name adds even more prestige to the competition, and we are looking forward to an intense and entertaining Final to determine which team will lift the Arabian Gulf Cup.”
Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic is confident his side can take a giant step towards qualification from Group C with a win over Tractor Sazi tonight, despite freezing conditions in Tabriz.
Following a 3-1 victory over Tractor at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium two weeks ago, another win would put the Boss on the verge of the second round, but they will be up against the elements as well as their opponents at the Yadegar-e-Emam Stadium.
Snow fell in Tabriz, located in the north-west of Iran, yesterday and although sun is forecast today temperatures are not expected to get into double figures.
That is in stark contrast to the weather they left behind in Al Ain, where the gauge hit 34°C yesterday, but Dalic insists his players can cope and says they are in Iran to win.
“We are here to play a good game and get a good result,” he said. “The big problem for us is the weather conditions. It’s snowing and the temperature is very different from our home, but that will not beregarded as an excuse for us since we are here to win.
“Tractor are very strong, especially their fantastic playmaker Ali Karimi who could be very difficult for us. I know many fans will support them, which is normal when they’re playing at home, so I’m sure it will be a different game from the first one, but we are determined to win.
“Our first target is qualifying from the group phase and then we will see what happens. If we win, our place in the knockout stage will be almost guaranteed, but at the moment the group is open for every team to qualify.”
Al Ain striker Alex Brosque, whocould start in Tabriz following a substitute appearance in the weekend win over Emirates, concurred with Dalic.
“We are professional players and able to face all conditions anywhere,” he said. “I think we will show a good performance and be back to UAE with the three points.”
The Boss will be without Ibrahim Diaky for the game, after the midfielder picked up his second yellow card in the competition a fortnight ago, but Ahmed Barman is set to return from suspension.
Tractor will welcome back goalkeeper Hamed Lak and vice-captain Mohammad Nosrati as they look to leapfrog their visitors with victory.
Tractor coach Toni Oliveira said: “Asamoah Gyan is the player who makes the difference for Al Ain. He scored two goals in the last match and is an influential player.
“We will try with our collective organisation to stop him because he can win the match for his squad at any given moment.”
Cosmin Olaroiu has called on the Al Ahli faithful to get behind his side and spur them on to a vital Group D victory against Sepahan tonight.
The Red Knights welcome the four-time Iranian Pro League champions to the Rashid Stadium on the back of a 2-1 win in Isfahan that has re-energised their AFC Champions League campaign.
Olaroiu’s side, who began with draws against Al Hilal and Al Sadd, are now level on points with the latter at the top of their group.
Depending on the result in Saudi Arabia, where Hilal face Sadd, Ahli could end the night with a five point cushion over third place, with a home game against Hilal and then a trip to Qatar to come.
Three points against Sepahan would therefore put the Dubai side in an excellent position to reach the round of 16 for the first time in their history.
“We expect a very difficult game. We saw the power of Sepahan in the first game, they are a very, very strong team physically with a particular way of playing and can create trouble for any team,” Olaroiu said yesterday. “Like always we’ll try our best to win the game. It’s been a very difficult period for us, very tough time and we need support of the public, for the supporters to be near to the team at this time.
“The end of the season is very tough, we have to remain very concentrated in all competitions.”
With his side sitting top of the Arabian Gulf League, in the final of both the UAE League Cup and President’s Cup and playing in Asia, Olaroiu has had to guide Ahli through a gruelling March fixture list, that saw them play six times, five of them within a 15-day period.
However, the Romanian backed his players to play with the “right attitude” and give themselves breathing space in Group D.
He added: “It’s a very important [game] because we have an advantage in front of them. They are very strong, then we have another two games, it’s a big step in front to qualify.”
The Red Knights’ win in Iran was handed to them by a 95th minute goal from substitute Ismail Al Hammadi that looped into the far corner, although the winger appeared to be crossing.
Olaroiu believes his players deserved their slice of luck for the effort they had put in and joked that he would not be telling them to cross tonight.
“In any victory, the score doesn’t matter, or the play, it is the part of luck. But it is not all luck,” he added. “It’s also the work of the players on the pitch. We fought for 90 minutes, at 1-0 scored a goal that should have been allowed and maybe the game would have been different.
"Of course they want revenge but we also want to improve ourselves. And we’ll try to tell our players not to try to cross the ball this time.”
Ahli midfielder Majed Hassan echoed his coach’s sentiment as he called on the Rashid Stadium crowd to get behind the team.
“The game will be difficult after we encountered some difficulties away from home, and we hope our fans support and wish to provide a good match.”
Sepahan coach Zlatko Kranjcar admitted his side made mistakes at home a fortnight ago, but expects them to put them right at the Rashid Stadium.
In contrast to their hosts, the Iranian side played just three times last month and they have won just one game in their last five in all competitions.
“My players accept my advice that we’re not going to make the same mistakes,” Kranjcar said. “It’s a matter of individual responsibility from each single player to respect their jobs and to stop the mistakes that gave us the bad result. It’s not just in Asia where we lose in last 5-10 minutes.
“We must play the game to the last moment in the competition to reach further, the same for Al Hilal and Al Sadd.”