Mahdi eyes President’s Cup final berth - GulfToday

Mahdi eyes President’s Cup final berth

President Cup

Sharjah players share a light moment during a training session ahead of their President’s Cup semi-final match.

Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter

Defending champions Shabab Al Ahli coach Mahdi Ali is looking to book their berth in the final of the President’s Cup with a win over Bani Yas on Monday.

In the other last-four clash, Sharjah will take on Al Nasr to vie for a place in the final of the most prestigious tournament of the company.

Mahdi sounded excited with the prospect of taking a step forward towards the successful title defence but fretted over the tight fixtures, which may take its toll on players.

“Bani Yas are a strong opponent. They are playing good this season, and we tied with them in the first round. The problem is that we are facing them after a very short period.

“We are playing back-to-back matches because of the tight schedule. I wished at least we had a week’s time to prepare for the semi-final. Anyhow, we will strive to win and progress to the final,” said Mahdi, who took over the reins of Shabab Al Ahli following the sacking of Rodolfo Arruabarrena.

“We play in all tournaments and are under great pressure, as we play a match every three days, which causes fatigue to the players.

“Multiple injuries curtail the opportunities for the technical staff to rotate the players, through our experience with the team we know how to deal with matches and prepare the players, who are best suited to participate in a certain match,” he added.

Shabab Al Ahli played their last match in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on Feb.18, and will be in action again only after a gap of four days. They are slated to play their next in the league on Feb.26. That makes it three matches within a space of eight days.

“Each match is played in different conditions. And any victory gives confidence and brings positivity in the team. It is like a catalyst for the players. We went through a difficult week in the absence of ten players, but with the persistence of those present and their fighting spirit, we succeeded in achieving the goal,” added the former UAE coach.

Commenting on the signing of Omar Abdel Rahman, the coach looked optimistic and excited.

“He is an important and influential player for the club and the national team, and he is a source of pleasure for the fans,” said Mahdi, who has worked with the star striker in the national team during his tenure with the UAE team.

Shabab Al Ahli defender Abdel Aziz Heikal said: “We realise the importance and difficulty of the match. It is a knockout match and there are no chances of sharing the spoils like a league game. Whoever wins goes into the final.”

Meanwhile, Bani Yas coach Daniel Isaila emphasised the importance of the match and predicted a tough game against Shabab Al Ahli.

“We know that the match will not be easy as we are up against one of the strongest teams. Shabab Al Ahli have changed a lot after Mahdi took over the task of coaching the team,” said Isaila.

When asked about the importance of the President’s Cup for the team this season, the coach explained that all the official matches of the team in this season are important for the team and we are looking for victory only.

“Yes, it is a very important tournament for me, but we compete for all championships and strive to achieve a positive result in all the matches. We have an opportunity to reach the final of the President’s Cup,” he added.

Meanwhile, Al Nasr coach Ramon Diaz also expressed their desire to win and qualify for the final.

“Due to the high importance of the tournament, the team is striving hard to win the next match against Sharjah to qualify for the final of the most precious Cup. There is no other alternative but to win because it is a knockout match. There is no opportunity to compensate if you lose,” said Diaz.

Sharjah coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari also expressed a desire to win and remain on course for another silverware. He also predicted a tough game.

“We are confident of winning the match and moving into the final. Though it will not be an easy match,” said Anbari.

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