DUBAI // Toninho Cerezo, the Al Shabab coach, has backed his under-performing side to regroup and put their title-defence campaign back on track. Shabab travel to Ajman, having won just a point from their last three games. They lost at Al Ain, drew at Al Khaleej and were crushed at home by Al Nasr. Their last success in the Pro League was on October 4, a 1-0 home win over Al Dhafra. Shabab have just seven points from six games and lie seventh in the table.
Cerezo is far from happy with their position, but has backed his players to come good, starting with Ajman tonight. "We are a champion side, capable of turning things around," said the Brazilian, who guided the Slashers to the league title last season after almost a decade of mid-table anonymity. "It won't be long before we start winning again. "These are the same players who won the league last season, they have not become bad in a few months. Our problem has been the lack of goals, but I am confident that will change soon. We have been working hard on it."
Al Wasl were champions before being dethroned by Shabab, and they are not faring any better in the league. The seven-time league winners have managed just seven points from six games in a season which has seen the club sack coach Miroslav Beranek after just two games and the fans boycott a UFL game. The "Cheetas" have lost twice in three games at home this season and host Al Sharjah tonight with striker Zikajoury admitting the players' spirits were not high.
"We lack confidence at the moment," said Zikajoury, who has been the target of the fans' anger over his lack of goals. "That confidence will come with winning. This is just the start of the season and we still have a long way to go. There are eight points between us and leaders Al Ahli, and we can surely catch up if we stay focused." Al Nasr, who have surged up the table with seven points from their last three games, will travel to Al Khaleej tonight without their Iranian striker Raza Enayati.
Enayati has flown home to get advice on a blood clot in his right leg. There are seven other injury concerns for Nasr, but coach Luka Bonacic is confident of a good result. He said: "We have a number of injuries, but the morale is high and we are expecting a positive result. I have full faith in the abilities of the players stepping in." firstname.lastname@example.org