x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cup gives Schaefer a chance to look to the future

With the Super Cup in bag and sitting on top of the Pro League, the Al Ain manager Winfried Schaefer sees an opportunity to blood some of his youngsters against Al Shabab in Group B of the Etisalat Cup.

AL AIN // With the Super Cup in bag and sitting on top of the Pro League, the Al Ain manager Winfried Schaefer sees an opportunity to blood some of his youngsters against Al Shabab in Group B of the Etisalat Cup. Schaefer's men begin their defence of the trophy with a trip to Dubai tonight without their inspirational Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia as well as UAE players Ali al Wehaibi, Abdulla Malallah, Helal Saeed, Mohannad al Enazi and goalkeeper Waleed Salem, all on national duty.

The UAE are playing friendlies against the Palestinians on Saturday and Jordan four days later,the first matches under Slovenian manager Srecko Katanic, as he prepares the team for the Asia Cup qualifier against Malaysia in January. Schaefer said: "This competition is designed for the teams to play matches without any interruptions, particularly when there are international games. "I see this as a good opportunity to expose some of the youngsters, which has been Al Ain's plan to have a ready stock of young players and make a bigger squad available for the first team. We started with this plan when I first took over in the middle of the 2007-2008 season and the results are there to be seen."

Schaefer's men won the cup double last season and have got off to a flyer this term, beating champions Al Ahli in the Super Cup, followed by Pro League victories over Al Nasr (2-0) at home and then Ahli again, a 5-1 away demolition. The Al Shabab manager, Toninho Cerezo, will be able to field his regular players as none of his men are in the national team squad. Having won three points from two Pro League games, the Brazilian is expected to field his best team.

In the two early games on the opening night of the Etisalat Cup, Al Jazira travel to Sharjah to play Emirates in Group C and Al Dhafra are at home to Ioan Andone's Ahli in Group A. apassela@thenational.ae