Top-flight champions Sharjah are determined to show surprise success has not gone to their heads when 2019/20 kicks off in earnest with Saturday’s gala Arabian Gulf Super Cup clash against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, according to live-wire playmaker Igor Coronado.
It is a shock that the Brazilian’s unfancied side are even involved in the traditional season opener, with last term’s deserved Arabian Gulf League title – their first in 23 years – the biggest upset recorded during a decade of professionalism in the UAE. They now face the form team of 2019 – coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena led his employers to twin triumphs in the President and Arabian Gulf Cups.
“It will be an exciting game and it is a game every club wants to play at the start of the season,” said 27-year-old Coronado, ahead of the showpiece at Al Nasr’s redeveloped Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. “This is because you won something.
“That is in the past, though. It will not be an easy game, we have a lot of respect for them.
“Nothing has changed for Sharjah. We’ve kept our mentality and have the same work-rate.
“We hope for the best.”
Shabab Al Ahli finished as AGL runners-up, six points behind the winners. Their season was turned around by October’s visionary call to dispense with Jose Luis Sierra and replace him with ex-Al Wasl tactician Arruabarrena.
This deficit could be directly attributed to Abdulaziz Al Anbari’s King doing the double over them in the league.
“This is a different match and the two teams want to win,” said Arruabarrena, whose President’s Cup triumph gained entry into the weekend game. “We will try not to think that we lost to Sharjah both times in the Arabian Gulf League.
“We need to concentrate more on winning the third time. Only the team that keeps total concentration will win tomorrow.
“The most important thing will be what happens inside the field, based on the experiences of the players. I am telling them to enjoy the match without pressure and the result will follow.”
A burning desire to close the gap has witnessed a busy summer at Shabab Al Ahli. Levski Sofia creator Davide Mariani, Deportivo La Coruna loanee Fede Cartabia and prolific Al Wahda forward Leonardo – the 2019 AFC Champions League’s leading marksman – represent headline additions.
Warm-ups in the AG Cup from a side depleted by the international break generated a draw at Al Ain, plus victories versus Al Jazira and Nasr.
Striker Welliton’s defection to Al Wasl and the €3 million purchase of Partizan Belgrade’s Ricardo Gomes defined Sharjah’s transfer window. They also landed a trio of Emiratis from Wahda in defender Salem Sultan, centre midfielder Mohammed Abdulbasit and winger Tareq Ahmed.
Gomes fired blanks in AG Cup defeats to Bani Yas and Wahda. He then put Ajman to the sword with an ominous ‘perfect’ hat-trick in last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing.
Coronado – who inked a lucrative contract extension to 2023 this week and was named the AGL’s Best Foreign Player in May – was expecting his new team-mate to remain on the goal trail.
He said: “We can already see Ricardo’s quality. A striker lives by scoring goals.
“Once he scored the hat-trick, it took a lot of weight off his bag. I know how much he wants to succeed.
“The group, the coach are all very happy for him. It was an important moment for him to get those goals before this game and the league starting.
“I am sure he is going to help us a lot.”
Sharjah will be aiming for a third Super Cup win in four appearances. For Ahli, from eight appearances across their various guises, victory would draw them level with Al Ain’s leading five.
Tickets for the AG Super Cup can be purchased at dubai.platinumlist.net.
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