Shabab Al Ahli players attend a training session ahead of their match against Sharjah.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
Sharjah will look to extend their lead at the top of the table with a victory over Shabab Al Ahli in the eighth round match of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
A total of four matches will be played on the first day of the eighth round. In the other matches of the day, Al Wasl host Ajman, Fujairah welcome Al Jazira and Hatta meet Khorfakkan in a 9pm kick-off fixture.
The remaining three matches will held on Tuesday.
Sharjah are at the top of the standing, having procured 19 points in seven games. After a staller start to season, Sharjah went on to win six games on a trot before a lowly Khorffakkan stopped their juggernaut with a gritty 1-1 draw on Friday.
Sharjah coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari said players are ready to take up any challenge despite a short period of preparation between the matches.
“Players are fully prepared and showing a great desire to go out in the middle and perform despite getting a very little time between the matches,” said Anbari.
All the teams are playing back-to-back matches due to a tight schedule. The matches have been crammed into a jam-packed calendar to make up for the three-month time, which was lost due to pandemic. The season that usually starts in August was postponed by three months and got underway in October.
Anbari also predicted a tough match against Shabab Al Ahli, who are at the six spot and trail their rivals by a seven points.
“We realise the importance of the match as it brings us together with the Shabab Al Ahli, who are one of the strongest competitors.
“They bounced back to register an emphatic win over Hatta after losing to Al Jazira in the previous match. We need to stay focused and field a balanced squad to collect full three points,” he added.
Sharjah’s Salem Saleh said: “We have put behind the impact of the draw in the last round match and worked with the technical staff to review mistakes in order to avoid the recurrence of such results.
“We have a very good attack, who are capable of penetrating their defence and dealing with the course of the match as required. It is a kind of a summit clash between the top two teams,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli coach Gerard Zaragoza said they are confident of winning the match against a rampant Sharjah.
“Sharjah have won all their matches against all the top teams of the league. But we have to focus on our game. We are confident of putting up a good show against them,” said Zaragoza.
“We are playing a difficult match and we consider it one of the most important matches in the league. Sharjah have a bunch of talented players, aided by a good coaching staff. We also have some very talented players and we are fully perfectly prepared for the match,” he added.
“Our strategy for the match will be to achieve a victory and not concede goals against them. We would like to put up a decent performance. Player are more focused on this match than they were in the Ajman clash,” he concluded.
In another big match of the day, Al Jazira will look to extend their winning streak against Fujairah, who are lagging in the lower half of the table.
Al Jazira coach Marcel Keizer ruled out any complacency against Fujairah and vowed to give their best in the match.
“The four points they have are not reflecting their true potentials, both individually and also as a team,” said Keizer ahead of their match.
“We expect a tough visit to Fujairah Stadium, and I believe the match will be challenging because they are performing well in the league.
“And they deserved a better position in the table. Irrespective of their position in the table, one cannot undermine their strength.
“We focus on preparing the players carefully because we have to play back-to-back matches due to a jam-packed calendar. We do not have the privilege of enough time for recovery after the matches.
“So the goal is to keep all of them fit. We will go there with confidence to play well and with desire to collect all three points,” he added.
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