x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

President's Cup: Al Ahli coach Quique Sanchez Flores after a high five

The cup-expert is looking to make it five victories from six finals when his side bring the curtain down on the 2012/13 season against Al Shabab in the President's Cup final in Abu Dhabi.

Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ahli coach, is considered a cup-expert. Pawan Singh / The National
Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ahli coach, is considered a cup-expert. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // A habitual hoarder of trophies and trinkets, Quique Sanchez Flores is intent on maintaining that trend tonight.

The Al Ahli manager has already collected a title in his 18 months at the Dubai club last season's Etisalat Cup yet this campaign's sustained boom has brought him within reach of yet more silverware.

Ahli face neighbours Al Shabab as the 2012/13 season closes with the President's Cup final, with Sanchez Flores keen to keep intact a remarkable record.

The Spaniard has guided teams, from Benfica to Atletico Madrid to Ahli, to four more finals since contesting, and winning, the Portuguese League Cup in 2009, emerging triumphant from three. The only blot was the 2010 Copa del Rey in Spain, when Atletico were beaten 2-0 by Sevilla.

"This is my sixth final in five years," Sanchez Flores said. "I have four wins from five. Hopefully this will be the fifth success for me as a coach."

Ahli are considered favourites in the encounter at Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Runners-up in the recently concluded Pro League, they will recall to their starting line-up a number of players rested from Saturday's 2-1 loss at Al Dhafra.

Among those will be Grafite, the Pro League's newly crowned International Player of the Year, Luis Jimenez, the gifted Chilean playmaker, and Ismail Al Hammadi, the in-form Emirati. Ahmed Khalil and Ricardo Quaresma are also expected to return, forming an impressive quintet in attack.

Most of those know what it takes to seal a trophy. Appetites whetted, Sanchez Flores insists his charges are hungry for more.

"Winning the Etisalat Cup last year was just the beginning; it's not enough," he said.

"The players have been highly ambitious this season, and since last season everyone has waited for this moment to battle for the President's Cup like we did with Al Ain for the Pro League title.

"We all have high aspirations, and the players' sights are set firmly on this game. That's why we decided they shouldn't play the Dhafra match, to avoid being distracted.

"Al Shabab are a great team one of the best this season so we respect them a lot. All the players are aware how important the derby is. It's a game that encapsulates the hard work of the entire season for us."

It is a common objective, shared among hoarders of trophies.

"I know Ahli haven't failed on any occasion when they've made it to the final of a local competition," Sanchez Flores said. "They've reached a cup final seven times and won them all. I hope this continues with me against Shabab."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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