His side have a huge cup final looming in five days’ time, but Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena insists his focus and that of his players is on the Arabian Gulf League and relegation scrappers Emirates Club on Wednesday.
The Argentine leads his side into the final of the President’s Cup on Monday, where they face resurgent Al Dhafra. It will be a chance to fight for a maiden piece of silverware since the club were rebranded in the summer of 2017 following a merger between Al Ahli, Al Shabab and Dubai CSC.
Some lean times have followed but former La Albiceleste international Arruabarrena has ushered in a period of prosperity since taking over from Jose Luis Sierra last October.
He has marched the club to third in the AGL table – they share the same amount of points as second-placed Al Jazira but trail only on goal difference – while former side Al Wasl were thrashed 5-1 in the semi-finals on the way to an appointment with the Western Knights at Zayed Sports City Stadium next week.
But it’s a case of first things first for Arruabarrena. “Talking about the final of the President’s Cup, it is not yet time,” said the 43-year-old, a winner of six Argentina caps between 1995-2006.
“We must focus in the current period on the next match, and we will leave the cup final for a time after the completion of the game before us in the league.”
Lowly Emirates sit third bottom and are yet again in the midst of a relegation dogfight. And Arruabarrena insists the Falcons will feel Wednesday’s encounter is their own cup final, and has warned his side not to expect an easy game.
“The team that performs better is the one who wins,” he added. “For the teams that seek to escape from the relegation area, I see that the games are harder, and they perform like a final match.
“They seek to improve their position, so I expect a strong competition between the two teams.”
Fellow finalists Dhafra are also in action on Wednesday night. The team in eighth face Al Nasr, a point and place below them, at Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Stadium.
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