PRESIDENT’S CUP: Berths in UAE football’s most-prestigious match are up for grabs during Saturday’s President’s Cup semi-finals.
Surprise undefeated Arabian Gulf League pacesetters Sharjah face mid-table Al Dhafra at Bani Yas Stadium (17:45 KO) to kick-off the doubleheader. The other side of the draw has pitted shock strugglers Al Wasl against resurgent Arabian Gulf Cup finalists Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club at Al Nasr’s revamped Al Maktoum Stadium (20:45 KO).
For Sharjah, they now appear certainties to end a 16-year trophy drought at some point this term.
Wasl’s clash with Shabab Al Ahli turns the spotlight on coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena. The ex-Argentina left-back led Wasl to two-successive top-three finishes in the AGL prior to last summer’s surprise exit, while October’s arrival at Shabab Al Ahli reinvigorated an ailing campaign.
AG CUP: Abu Dhabi rivals Al Wahda and Bani Yas are set to meet on Friday (20:15 KO) to scrap for a spot in the Arabian Gulf Cup final against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
The weekend’s hosts at Al Nahyan Stadium have roared into the last-four, in contrast to their sketchy form in the Arabian Gulf League. Points were only dropped in the group stage against their imminent last-four opponents and Emirates Club were then thrashed 5-0 in the quarter-finals, plus they should be full of confidence thanks to Monday’s much-needed 4-1 thrashing of Saudi Arabian giants Al Ittihad in the 2019 AFC Champions League.
For the promoted Sky Blues, victory would represent another high point during an excellent top- flight return. They currently sit sixth, level on points with Wahda who were runners-up last term.
In the AG Cup, they ended up third in Group A and beat Al Ain in the quarters.
There will be no lack of “respect” from red-hot favourites the UAE when they battle surprise-package Malaysia in the 2019 AFC Beach Soccer Championship quarter-finals, according to coach Mohamed Al Maazmi.
The south-east Asian side scraped into the last-eight from Group A because of their superior head-to-head record against hosts Thailand. They now meet continental heavyweights who were beaten in 2017’s showpiece by Iran, won all three Group B-fixtures in this edition and have earned five entries into the Beach Soccer World Cup.
“I respect this team,” said Al Maazmi about Malaysia. “They are a good team.”
“I think in the first game of the Malaysian team in this tournament they were not in form, but in the second match against Thailand which they won, Malaysia was very good, and in the third match I think they were unlucky.
“I’m very surprised by this team, they have a good tactical level and a good coach. I think tomorrow will be a strong match between my team and Malaysia, and I hope for a good performance from my players.”
Malaysia made their competition bow, as hosts, only two years ago, yet boss Mohammed Faizal So’od was confident about a landmark result.
He said: “I’m very happy, and very grateful for this opportunity to be in the knockout stage.
“We respect the UAE team, but at the same time we will try to give a good fight and get a better result. Of course, UAE is a World Cup team, and we hope gain from the experience of playing with them.
“This is the first time for us to be in the knockout stage, and this is history for us, so I hope, because of this tournament, beach soccer will be more popular in Malaysia.”
في الدور ربع النهائي لبطولة آسيا— UAE NT (@uaent2019) March 13, 2019
أبيض الشواطئ يواجه نظيره الماليزي غدا
خليل أهلي : الانضباط والتركيز شعارنا لحسم التأهل
المازمي : جاهزون لحسم بطاقة التأهل إلى نصف النهائي
التفاصيل : https://t.co/FowiL8d1cQ
..#أبيض_الشاطئية_إلى_العالمية #أبيض_الشواطئ pic.twitter.com/lDRJGLFpjg
In the other side of the draw, holders Iran meet Japan and Palestine meet Lebanon.
The winner of the UAE’s tie will meet either Oman or Bahrain in Friday’s semi-finals.
Al Wasl will need to successfully manage a cascade of emotions if they are to continue their winning start when Al Zawra’a host Iraq’s first-ever AFC Champions League match on Monday.
Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima’s questionable penalty earned a 1-0 victory – ending an 11-year drought in the competition – from last week’s Group A-opener against free-spending Saudi Professional League-outfit Al Nassr. Next up are Iraqi Premier League holders, who kicked off their first campaign since 2007 with a creditable goalless draw at Iran’s Zob Ahan.
“We are here to win against a team we respect very much,” said Cheetahs boss Laurentiu Reghecampf. “Being in the continental tournament gives a big incentive.”
Under predecessor Rodolfo Arruabarrena in 2018, they lost all six pool fixtures.
Elsewhere in this section, Nassr will hope home advantage counts against Zob.
Rui Vitoria’s men have won six of their last seven games in all competitions.