x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

President's Cup: Al Shabab are quietly confident

Coach Marcos Paqueta says winning the President's Cup would be a fitting finale to a memorable season for Al Shabab, writes Amith Passela.

The President's Cup final will be a Dubai derby. Mike Young / The National
The President's Cup final will be a Dubai derby. Mike Young / The National

ABU DHABI // Marcos Paqueta says winning the President's Cup would be a fitting finale to a memorable season for Al Shabab.

They meet city rivals Al Ahli for the fifth time across three competitions this season, with the record standing at 1-1 in the Pro League, and with two draws in the Etisalat Cup.

Tonight at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, they will face off for UAE football's most coveted cup competition.

"This season, we had some trouble at the beginning, but after the players understood the philosophy of our work, we managed to build a team with a strong personality and quality, and achieved some excellent results," Paqueta said.

"For the first time in the history of the club, we reached the round of 16 in the Asian Champions League, we progressed to semi-finals in the Etisalat Cup and finished strongly in the Pro League to take fifth place."

The Brazilian has been successful in three of the four previous cup finals, twice each in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and believes he has a squad that can be successful again.

"I am very hopeful," he said. "The pressure is on both teams, because neither Ahli nor Shabab have won any trophies for the season.

"This will be the time one of us can win a title and an automatic spot in next year's ACL."

Paqueta will have a full squad at his disposal after resting all his players in their final league game against Al Shaab, which they lost 2-1 last week.

"We had to play a second-string team because we had only three days to play in the final. The players are well-prepared, both mentally and physically, for this important game," he said.

"In my opinion, Ahli are one of the best teams in the country. They have quality in every line. But I have a lot of confidence in my players, and they, too, have a lot of quality and know what to do on the pitch."

apassela@thenational.ae

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