x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Break from league play does Al Shabab world of good

Sanchez Flores urges Al Ain players to look beyond President's Cup final

Marcos Paqueta, the Al Shabab coach, says his players have recharged their batteries after being off for two weeks following their Arabian Gulf League loss to Al Jazira on January 24. Razan Alzayani / The National
Marcos Paqueta, the Al Shabab coach, says his players have recharged their batteries after being off for two weeks following their Arabian Gulf League loss to Al Jazira on January 24. Razan Alzayani / The National

Marcos Paqueta, the Al Shabab coach, said his players have made good use of the two-week break to return fully charged for their meeting with Al Wasl on Thursday at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium.

“It was a welcome break for the players after a hectic period, and I am sure they have benefited from it,” the Brazilian said. “We had time to work on tactics and given the players enough time to recover and return in good shape. As a result, we have a full squad to choose from.

“And of course, we are keen to get a good result and keep up our challenge for the title at the top of the table.”

Shabab got the better of Wasl in their first meeting earlier in the season, but Paqueta warned that result counts for nothing after their opponents’ recruitment of players in the recently closed winter transfer window.

“They have brought in many new players,” he said. “I expect a tough game with fierce rivalry as it is a Dubai derby. The league is still wide open. Of course, there is still a long way to go and many points to be won, and some things could be turned upside down due to the business done by various clubs during the transfer window.”

Hector Cuper, the Wasl coach, said his players must work hard to nullify the attacking threat of Shabab, who have scored 32 goals in their 16 league fixtures.

“Shabab are one of the strongest teams in the league, scoring a high number of goals and conceding few, so we must focus and take them very seriously,” the Argentine said.

The Al Ain coach Quique Sanchez Flores, meanwhile, urged his team to keep their feet on the ground after the euphoria of reaching the President’s Cup final following last Thursday’s 2-1 win semi-final win over Al Nasr.

The reigning two-time league champions face second-from-bottom Dubai away, but the Portuguese coach said his side are focused on improving their position in the table, currently ninth.

“My players have a professional mentality and I would like to think they will not be carried away by one result,” he said. “We are meeting Dubai and they won’t be easy. The players will have to respect any opponent regardless of their positions in league.

“We know that any team that plays against Al Ain wants to perform to their true potential. We, too, have big motivation for winning and moving ahead in the league. Our most important priorities are represented in showing great performances and winning the upcoming matches in the league and Asian Champions League.

“Now we have a final [President’s Cup] to look forward to. We may not win the league, but we certainly want to finish as high as possible. So there is a lot to play for, and every game is important for us.”

Also tonight, Al Dhafra play Sharjah at the Hamdan bin Zayed Stadium.

apassela@thenational.ae