x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Champions Shabab face difficult season

Shabab will have to be awake and playing at their best against Dhafra, for the visitors have been in impressive form.

DUBAI // Before the start of the season the Al Shabab team manager Obaid al Hubaitha warned: "When you are the champions, everybody wants to take you down. Every team plays against you with full force; they want to win against you." Hubaitha's words came true as Shabab crashed to a 4-2 defeat at Al Sharjah in their second match of the inaugural Pro League, after opening their title defence with a dour 2-0 win over Al Shaab.

The Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo, who saw red at Sharjah and was banished to the stands by the referee for swearing, slammed his players for "sleeping" through the game. The defeat, Cerezo hopes, will served as a "wake up" call for his side before they host Al Dhafra tomorrow night. Shabab will have to be awake and playing at their best against Dhafra, for the visitors have been impressive in picking up three points at Al Khaleej and holding the in-form Al Ain to a goalless draw.

The Shabab captain and midfielder Marcus Assuncao, who missed the Sharjah game due to suspension, will return for the match to provide solidity in the midfield. But the defending champions will be without last season's "Goalkeeper of the Year", Ismael Rabea, who is training with the national team. arizvi@thenational.ae