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UAE's Ismail Al Hammadi, right, tries to hold of the tackle from Bahrain's Sami Al Housaini during their win this week. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters
UAE's Ismail Al Hammadi, right, tries to hold of the tackle from Bahrain's Sami Al Housaini during their win this week. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters

Gulf Cup: Mahdi Ali wants momentum and a hat-trick of wins

UAE may rest players, especially those on a yellow card, with top-spot in group secured, while Ali Mabkhout targets the golden boot.

The UAE's final group game against Oman tonight might appear inconsequential for his side, but Mahdi Ali has promised his young team will not let up and will try to put on an even better performance than in their first two matches.

The UAE have already secured top spot in Group A of the Gulf Cup ahead of tonight's match and after their hard-fought win over Bahrain Mahdi Ali said he had decided to rest some of his key players, including those on yellow cards.

The coach confirmed those plans yesterday, but said: "This game is very important for the team, unlike what some people think. The players are keen to prove they deserve to finish at the top of this group, so we will be trying to do much better than we did in our previous game.

"There will be changes to the team. We have three players on yellow cards [Hamdan Al Kamali, Ali Khasief and Khamis Esmail] and we risk losing their services in the semi-finals if they pick up more bookings.

"Having said that, I would like to make it clear there are no reserve players in this team. Even a player like Ismail Matar has started on the bench in the last two matches."

Esmail, the Al Jazira midfielder, is almost certain to be rested after collecting two yellow cards - players are suspended if they pick up three bookings - and Majed Hassan could get a start after his 85th-minute winner against Bahrain.

"We want to win this game against Oman and reach the semis with three wins," Hassan said.

The likes of Mohammed Fawzi, Habib Fardan and Saeed Al Kathiri could get a start, ahead of Amer Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil.

It would also be tempting to give Omar Abdulrahman a rest as well, but the classy Al Ain midfielder is looking to play a part in the game against Oman.

"We may have reached the semis already, but we are always looking to win and give outstanding performances to keep our fans happy," Abdulrahman said.

"Thankfully, we have not let our fans down and we promise to put up a much better show against Oman."

The UAE coach also has plenty of options in defence should he decide to give Al Kamali, Mohammed Ahmed, Abdulaziz Sanqoor or Abdullah Moosa a rest. Walid Abbas, Mohannad Salem, Ali Salem and Abdulaziz Hussain are all worthy replacements.

However, Ali Mabkhout, who is leading the tournament's scoring list with two goals, might not want to sit out of the game.

The Al Jazira striker has set his sights on "winning the Golden Boot" in Bahrain and has promised to find the net against Oman as well.

"I scored a goal against Bahrain, but I also missed an easy chance," he said. "Now I want to score against Oman as well and take this confidence into the semi-finals."


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