DUBAI // Al Shabab are out of contention for a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, but coach Paulo Bonamigo claims pride will be a strong incentive for his side in tonight's clash with Persepolis.
Playing in Asia for only the second time, Shabab have yet to win a game in this campaign, having lost all three of their away matches and drawn the two at home. Their worst defeat came against Persepolis in Tehran when they were drubbed 6-1, but Bonamigo insists their final Group D game is not about revenge.
"I believe revenge is the wrong word to use," he said. "Our goal is to play with dignity in the Champions League and show our personality. So it's not about revenge, but about representing UAE football as best as we can and performing well.
"We lost 6-1 in Tehran, but that was just a bad day for us and it can happen to any team. Our focus will be on putting up a much better performance and proving that result [against Persepolis] was abnormal."
Shabab will be missing the services of their talismanic Brazilian Ciel for the game due to suspension, along with defender Esam Dahi.
Uzbek Azizbek Haydarov, who has missed the last few matches due to injury, could get some time in the middle as Bonamigo is keen to give him a bit of match practise ahead of Monday's Etisalat Cup final against Al Ahli, but the hosts could rest most of their other regulars keeping that game in mind.
"We have full faith in the replacements and a lot of motivation to do well in this game," Bonamigo said. "We don't have a chance of qualifying for the next stage, but we want to leave a good impression of Shabab in Asia."
The Persepolis coach Mustafa Denizli was not too pleased to hear his team could be facing the Shabab second-string, but with the battle for the two qualifying spots from the group still wide open, he will not really care as long as he can get three points.
Persepolis are second in the group with eight points, one behind Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, who will host Al Gharafa (six points) of Qatar later in the night. The second Group D match will kick-off three hours after the Shabab-Persepolis start and Denizli is surprised both group matches are not starting at the same time.
"We know the importance of this game and we are ready," he said. "But I just want to say one thing: the last [group] games must all start at the same time like they do in Europe. That is important. However, I am not afraid. We know what we have to do - we have to win this match and that's all."
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