Al Nasr players warm up in gym ahead of their quarter-final match against Fujairah. Courtesy: Twitter
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
The first leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup (AGC) quarter-finals will kick off on Thursday with Shabab Al Ahli taking on Khorfakkan and defending champions Al Nasr meeting Fujairah.
Khorfakkan will host Shabab Al Ahli at the Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi Stadium while Al Nasr welcome Fujairah at the Al Maktoum Stadium.
Al Nasr are playing their first game of the tournament after having automatically qualified for the quarters due to a revamped structure. Both Al Nasr and Sharjah, holders of cup and league titles respectively, directly qualified for the last eight. Al Nasr coach Krunoslav Jurcic vowed no let-ups against Fujairah.
“We have an important match ahead of us against Fujairah. We will take the match very seriously as it is our first game in the tournament,” said Jurcic.
“Mahmoud Khamis and Sebastian Tagliabue will be absent from our line-up as they are with the UAE national team. But we have enough players to compete in the match and achieve our goal,” he added.
“There is no difference between the tournaments we participate in, as we have a clear goal and our ambition is to win all the matches that we play, especially since winning makes the atmosphere positive,” he stressed.
Shabab Al Ahli wary of Khorfakkan: Meanwhile, Shabab Al Ahli will be looking to regain the lost glory after having conceded the title to Al Nasr in 2019. Al Nasr defeated Shabab Al Ahli 2-1 in the final.
Shabab Al Ahli are seeking a revival of fortune under the new coach Mehdi Ali, who assumed the charge last month for a record third time at the club where he shone as player as well during his hay days.
Since his arrival at the club, Shabab Al Ahli have had a mix fortune as they drew two and lost one under him. Ali predicted a tough match and vowed to carry the advantage into the second leg that will be held on Jan.25-26.
“We are going to play an important match, which will be held in two legs. The aggregate winner will make it to the semis but we want to take the advantage into the second leg.
“I consider Thursday’s match to be the first half but it is important for the both the team and the players. Khorfakkan are a strong team and beat anyone on a given day,” said Ali.
“We hope to live to up the expectations of our fans and return with a positive result. There are some absentees due to injuries and internationals few other players on national duty. But we have a good bench strength and I believe they care capable of winning,” he added.
He also expressed his delight on the signing of Yahya Al Ghassani, who is a very promising upcoming talent.
“I am happy with the inclusion of Ghassani in the squad. He is one of the promising players on the circuit and adds value to the team. He will help in taking the up in the rankings.”
Shabab Al Ahli are in the eighth spot with 16 points, having won 3, drawn 7 and lost 2 from their 12 games in the Arabian Gulf League.
Meanwhile, Khorfakkan head coach Caio Zanardi vowed to give a tough fight to the opponents.
“It is a very important game for us. We know we are up against a very strong team. But we are prepared every challenge and confident of moving into the semis,’’ said Zanardi.
“We will go into the match with a positive attitude and we are determined to execute our plans and translate them into success on the pitch. We are eyeing a slice of history by booking a semis berth,” he added.
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