Baniyas face an uphill task against Al Shabab tonight as the two teams battle for the second semi-final spot from Group B of the Etisalat Cup. Not only do Baniyas have to win, they must win by at least four goals.
Shabab and Al Ahli are top of the group with 17 points each, but the latter are assured of a place in the last four because of a better head-to-head record against Baniyas and Shabab.
Shabab have lost by a four-goal margin only eight times over the last decade in all domestic competitions.
Baniyas, who are on 14 points, can take hope from the fact that they have inflicted two of those defeats: 4-0 in the 2009/10 Pro League and 5-1 in the Etisalat Cup of the same season. But with 13 of their players missing, through injuries and international duty, Gabriel Calderon's team face a tough challenge.
"We know we have a very difficult task, but in football you cannot rule out anything," said Farid Ali, the director of Baniyas' first team. "Reaching the last four of the Etisalat Cup is one of our goals for this season and winning is our only option."
Shabab will also be missing five of their regulars, but will be playing for a win with the aim of finishing at the top of the group so they can avoid Group A leaders Al Jazira in the semi-finals.
Al Wasl (15), Al Ain (14) and Dubai (13) are in contention for the second Group A qualifying spot, but Diego Maradona's team have a tough game against Jazira and will be playing their home match at Baniyas because of disciplinary sanctions. Al Ain travel to Al Wahda, while Dubai meet Emirates.
Ahli will meet Ajman tonight and their Brazilian striker Grafite said they are determined to win the competition to compensate for their disappointing show in the league.
"We want to finish the season with a trophy and the Etisalat Cup is our only option," he said. "So all the players are really determined to put up a strong show and give something to our fans."
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