Pedro Conde has “great confidence” his new Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club team-mates can rebound from last week’s Arabian Gulf Cup final defeat with vital victory when the Arabian Gulf League resumes with a sensational top-of-the-table clash with Sharjah.
Leaders Shabab Al Ahli welcome the ailing, second-placed holders to Rashid Stadium on Friday (21:00 KO) for a gala ‘Match of the Week’. This rounds marks both the half-way stage of the campaign, plus the end of a three-week pause for the AG Cup deciders.
Conde, 31, debuted as a substitute in last Friday’s epic 2-1 showpiece defeat to Alvaro Negredo’s Al Nasr at a sold-out Zabeel Stadium. The prolific Spanish striker will be tasked with adding to his seven-goal haul in the 2019/20 top flight.
He said: “We are playing an important match and we must focus from the first minute.
“Winning against Sharjah will be a good thing, in order to increase the difference in points. A good team is the one who quickly overcomes obstacles and I have great confidence in my colleagues.”
The King may welcome back inspirational skipper Shaheen Abdulrahman from injury. Reigning Foreign Player of the Year Igor Coronado, however, is expected to be out for several months, with rumoured replacement Caio – formerly of Al Ain – close to inking a loan switch from Benfica.
Sharjah require a boost after failing to win four of their last five AGL clashes. This horrid spell allowed Shabab Al Ahli to open up a five-point lead.
Featuring as the highlight of the round, ‘The Match of the Week’ gives the fans the opportunity to experience a different side of UAE culture, through the lens of top-class local football.
The key clashes of the week combine a fun and action packed day-out for you, your family and friends. In addition to the excitement on pitch, the UAE Pro League Arena FanZone offers fun and competitive challenges, while you can indulge in delicious snacks from one of the premium food truck partners located at the venue.
Meanwhile, victorious Nasr boss Krunoslav Jurcic is ready for an emotional clash with Bani Yas.
Jurcic, 50, led the promoted Sky Blues to a fine sixth in 2018/19. He then departed in the summer, eventually pitching up at Al Maktoum Stadium in October.
This move has propelled resurgent Nasr from relegation contenders to third place, plus ended a five-year trophy drought.
“The confrontation against Bani Yas is special for me, as I previously trained them last season,” said the ex-Croatia midfielder. “All my talks about them will be beautiful because I gained wonderful memories after a wonderful season with this club that I respect very much.
“This match is dangerous for us, because after the coronation of the Arabian Gulf Cup the degree of motivation decreases for the players. But there is a positive thing, and it is that the atmosphere is perfect in the team.
“The players performed well in training and we are ready for this match.”
Joyous Al Wahda tactician Manolo Jimenez has hailed the “wonderful combination” of players available to him in the wake of a hectic winter transfer window.
The eight-placed Clarets have reacted forcefully to a dismal first half of the campaign. They now stand poised to hand competitive debuts against second-bottom Hatta to; Standard Liege winger Paul-Jose Mpoku, FC Seoul – and ex-Al Ain – defensive midfielder Lee Myung-joo, Al Jazira centre-back Fares Juma and Al Wasl centre midfielder Khamis Esmail
“We are more prepared than before to play matches,” said the ex-Spain full-back. “The team has strengthened its ranks during the last period with a wonderful combination of local and foreign players, this raises the team’s readiness.”
Elsewhere, winless Khor Fakkan will hope Al Ain are distracted by Tuesday’s 2020 AFC Champions League play-off versus Uzbekistan giants Bunyodkor.
Al Dhafra have a great chance to extend their five-match unbeaten run when they welcome third-bottom Fujairah, Al Jazira could be without five UAE Under-23 stars for the trip to Ajman and Al Wasl are expected to be without Fabio De Lima versus fellow mid-table side Ittihad Kalba.
Throughout the season, the organisers, UAE Pro League, are giving back to the fans. There will be a raffle at the end of the first half of each game, with smartphones, tablets and smart watches being gifted to the winners after the final whistle.
Meanwhile, select matches will witness a lucky supporter get their hands on one of the 30 brand-new Audi A3 cars that will have been raffled out before the end of this season.
In order to be eligible for future raffles, fans must register and purchase tickets through the official ticketing platform at Platinumist.net, plus attend a minimum of three home games of your favourite club.
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