Laurentiu Reghecampf does not believe Al Wahda have a hold over Al Wasl going into their President’s Cup semi-final showdown – despite the fact the Clarets have won three of the four encounters between the sides this season.
The most recent and most significant meeting was a 2-1 triumph in the Arabian Gulf Cup final in March for Reghecampf’s men – one that saw them lift a second title in three seasons despite finishing the game with nine men.
Mohammed Al Menhali and Ahmed Rashid both saw red at Rashid Stadium, yet the Clarets clung to a precious victory.
Wahda also swept Wasl aside 3-0 in the group stage of the competition and claimed a thrilling 4-3 league triumph in February – the Cheetahs’ sole win coming in the home league game earlier in the Arabian Gulf League campaign, a 2-1 win in October.
But ahead of the last four tie at newly-crowned AGL champions Al Ain’s Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday, Reghecampf shook off the suggestion that Wahda had become “specialists” in beating Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side.
“This game will be different and unlike previous ones,” said the Romanian – who is looking to retain the trophy Javier Aguirre claimed in his final match as Wahda coach last season.
The Mexican saw his side brush Al Nasr aside 3-0 in the final before stepping down, with Reghecampf replacing him last summer.
“The superiority of my team over Al Wasl in the previous three consecutive confrontations this season, including the final of Arabian Gulf Cup success, does not mean we’ve become specialists against Al Wasl and that we have the upper hand over them,” added Reghecampf.
“I hope that my team is ready, my players should not rest or rely on the previous results. Al Wasl are a strong team and we respect them very much, and this game requires seriousness and a top performance throughout the 90 minutes.
“Having beaten our competitor recently in three encounters should motivate the players to achieve the fourth win.”
The last four serves up two mouthwatering ties, with 2017/18 AGL champions Al Ain taking on Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club – record 12-time winners of the President’s Cup in their former guise as Al Ahli – at Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the early kick-off.
“The four teams who qualified for this stage of the competition are the best in the country,” added Reghecampf, who is anticipating an open game between the second and third top scorers in the AGL this term.
“Because of the offensive football the two teams embrace I expect an open game. The two sides will fight hard to conquer the midfield which is the area I believe will be key in trying to achieve a positive result.”
Wasl midfielder Abdullah Al Naqbi, meanwhile, admits he and his team-mates will be out for revenge for their humiliating Arabian Gulf Cup final defeat.
“We are ready for the next game. The team unity is strong and we have to prepare well for the match in which we will seek to compensate for the Arabian Gulf Cup final loss,” said the former Al Dhafra man.
Defeat will be a huge blow to the Cheetahs, who came into this season with so much hope after a fine debut under the tutelage of former Argentina international Arruabarrena – finishing second behind champions Jazira in the league last season.
They were on fire in the first half of this season too, unbeaten in their first 11 games and losing just once in their opening 14. But 2018 has been a disaster. Wasl went winless during February and March – losing four – to fall out of the title race, coupled by their cup final loss to Wednesday’s opponents.
But Al Naqbi hopes his side can end their campaign on a high. “We are at the end of the season and I am seeking to conclude it by becoming President’s Cup champion with Al Wasl because it is an important tournament for us and for the fans that always support us, so we will not relinquish the chance easily,” he said.
Wasl will be without Brazilian forward Ronaldo Mendes after he was sent off in their 2-0 AGL win over Hatta on Friday.
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