DUBAI // Al Shabab are going through a mid-season crisis. Their defence of the league title is in tatters with just 10 points from nine games and it is rumoured that they will get rid of their three foreign professionals when the transfer window opens in January. Marcos Assunaco, Carlos Renato and Musawengosi Mguni have failed to make any impression as Shabab struggle with the curse of the defending champions, like Al Ahli and Al Wasl in previous seasons.
They have managed just three wins so far and are among the backmarkers, facing a real threat of relegation. With their confidence and game in shreds following a 3-0 loss at Al Wasl last week, Shabab face league leaders Al Jazira tonight, and their three foreign pros may not even be in the line-up. The sorry situation at the Al Mamzar club will, however, not distract the Abu Dhabi giants from their mission.
"I am just thinking about three points from the game. am not concerned about whether the Shabab foreign players will take part in the game or not," said the Al Jazira coach Abel Braga. "In fact, this match provides them with an ideal opportunity to get back their form and prove their worth. They have good players and a top coach in Toninho Cerezo." Braga and Cerezo go a long way back, to their playing days in the Brazilian league.
"I have played against him and alongside him with the Brazilian team in 1978 [against England]. But this match is not about us - it is about the players and they will decide the result," he said. "The role of the coach does not go beyond preparing the team before a game, and guiding them from the sidelines. "I have a lot of respect of Cerezo. But we will be going there to win the game." Cerezo will be hoping Shabab can recapture the form that saw them beat Al Wahda 2-1 in their last home game.
"Our problem has been that in most games seven players are doing all the running while the others are just making up the numbers," he said. "We have got to play as a team and fight till the last minute, like we did against Wahda." firstname.lastname@example.org