Al Nasr players in training on Thursday, on the eve of their semi-final match against Al Ain on Friday.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
Holders Shabab Al Ahli meet Al Jazira as Al Nasr face an Al Ain test in mouthwatering Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals on Friday.
Shabab Al Ahli coach Rodlfo Arruabarrena predicted a tough match and said the first step is to book a berth in the final.
“The task of preserving the Arab Gulf Cup title is not easy, and we as the defending champions must be more focused and exert great effort in order to reach final.
“We should not listen to external opinions that negatively affect the team, but try to put up a high-level match and leave the field with victory, reaching the final,” said Arruabarrena.
“We are playing a big match against a team, who have experienced players. They always seek to claim more titles and on our part we will give everything we have and put up a strong performance.
“This is a big match and it is different form the other games. It is not like the other league matches where points can be splitted. It is a knock-out encounter and there has to be a winner.”
Informing about the players, who are likely to join the squad or will remain absent because of injuries or some other reasons, Arruabarrena said: “Goalkeeper Majed Nasser is in the team’s training and Lovanor will also join the training today. Mohamed Jumaa will be absent from the team because of his injury and he will be late to return to the squad,” he concluded.
Shabab Al Ahli player Karatapia said: “It is going to be a tough match. It is one of the toughest match in the recent times because two big teams are involved in it.
Karatapia added: “I went through a difficult phase, which was punctuated with injuries throughout the season. I could not participate in many matches and was not adapting quickly. But now, I am in a good shape and there is a big improvement. I am getting fit and seem to have recovered to serve the team better.”
Meanwhile, Al Nasr Croatian coach Kronslav Jovic said: “We have a great match before us. We will play with Al Ain, who made a change in their technical staff and this often leads to positive results and a strong reaction from the players, which makes the game difficult.
“But we represent a big team and we will enter the game with a complete list of players, and I personally have confidence in our ability to win and qualify for the final of the tournament.”
Jovic added: “I am completely satisfied with the recent performance of my team. We have become a strong team with the ability to defeat any opponent.
“We also succeeded in reaching third place in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) rankings and qualify for the Arab Gulf Cup semi-finals. I believe that our most important gains are working in solidarity with focus on improvement and a better performance in every match.”
Jovic continued his speech by saying: “The law obligating teams to involve young players in the Arab Gulf Cup is an excellent idea. I worked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and saw distinguished young players who have the talent, desire and ability to develop and shine to play in world leagues and not only in the Middle East leagues.”
He concluded by saying: “It is important for those in charge of the regulations to keep in mind that the Arabian Gulf Cup matches should not collide with that of the Olympic team. Because this deprives the young players, who have more than one opportunity from playing in two big games.
“Before, for example, we have Saeed Suwaidan, who got the chance and established himself in the starting line-up of the team, but he will be absent for Al Ain match because of joining the Olympic team camp.”
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