The UAE's opening Gulf Cup game against Qatar will be crucial to the prospects of the team in Bahrain, according to Mohammed Obaid, the general supervisor of the senior national team.
Winners of the 2007 Gulf Cup, when it was played in the Emirates, the UAE meet Qatar on Saturday in their opening match of Group A.
They will face hosts Bahrain on Tuesday before meeting the 2009 champions Oman three days later.
The other group include defending champions Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen.
The top two teams from each group move on to the semi-finals.
That is the first target for coach Mahdi Ali and his men, and Obaid said victory against Qatar will go a long way to making that possible.
"Both Qatar and Oman are still fighting for a berth in the 2014 World Cup finals, and Bahrain are the home team," Obaid told the Football Association's website.
"Our first clash against Qatar is very crucial for our campaign and a win will improve our chances in the chase for the title."
Obaid's optimism stems from UAE's impressive rise up the Fifa world rankings since Mahdi Ali took over the reins of the senior national team in August, following his success with the Olympic and youth teams.
"I'm optimistic when I see our team improving from 126th to 96th in the Fifa ranking in less than six months," Obaid said. "This is a very good and promising indication if we will consider that Mahdi Ali took over in August. He played seven friendlies and won five of them. The only defeat was 1-0 from Japan in the first warm up."
Mahdi Ali has made it clear the Gulf Cup is not his top priority, with more focus being on developing a team that can qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia and then the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, Ali has promised his team will not return home without giving an "honourable" performance.
The 23-man squad will arrive in Manama today from their pre-tournament base in Qatar, and Obaid is happy with the way the team has shaped up since flying to Qatar on December 21.
"Everything is well in place," he said. "We have completed our preparations and our Doha tour will hopefully pay off during the Gulf football extravaganza.
"The training camp in Qatar went according to plan although the head coach Mahdi Ali said he needed more time to ensure the required harmony between players."
Wednesday, Yemen became the first team to arrive in Bahrain for the tournament.
Seven other teams will fly in Thursday. Michel Platini, president of Uefa, will be present for the opening ceremony of the tournament on Saturday along with a number of Uefa representatives, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia and other senior sports officials from across the world.
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