DUBAI // Al Shabab will enter Saturday's President's Cup quarter-finals as favourites after going unbeaten in their last nine games - but Sharjah are confident they can snap that streak and keep their "dream" of winning the competition alive.
Shabab's last defeat came at Al Jazira on November 16. Since then, they have won six Pro League matches on the trot and defeated Al Nasr in the last round of the President's Cup. They have dropped points in just one of their nine games - in a goalless draw with Al Ahli in the Etisalat Cup.
Sharjah, who have won the President's Cup a record eight times, are on a hot streak of their own, unbeaten in eight matches, and Ali Mohammed, the administrative manager of the team, is confident they can keep that run going against Shabab.
"Of course, the cup matches are not the same as division one because we will be facing strong Pro League teams," Mohammed said. "Shabab are unbeaten in nine matches and they have a number of experienced players.
"So we have a lot of respect for them, but at the same time we are determined to reach the semi-finals because this tournament is really dear to us. We hope our fans will come out to support the team and help us achieve a dream that we have failed to realise for some years now.
"There is great optimism in the team, especially after the return of some of our injured players, and the team is currently at a high technical and physical level."
Shabab could make the same claim, but the Dubai club will be missing three key players. Left-back Walid Abbas is with the UAE team, while Uzbek Azizbek Haydarov is also on international duty, getting ready for a 2014 World Cup qualifier. Defender Hassan Ibrahim will miss the game through suspension.
"It is going to be a really tough game," said Issa Mohammed, the Shabab defender. "Sharjah have players with experience of playing against the top clubs and then they have a really good record in this competition.
"Our advantage is our spirit as a unit and our emphasis on performing as a team. We have got some positive results in recent matches and we hope we can keep this run going and reach the semis.
"So we can expect a charged-up encounter because both teams have ambitions of reaching the semis of a tournament, which is of great importance and prestige to every club as it bears the name of His Highness the Head of the State."