x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pro League: Shaab out to prove their staying power, Dibba confident in relegation battle

Sharjah club have two-point cushion but Dibba vow to fight hard against Ajman for survival chance.

Marius Sumudica says Al Shaab's focus is only on a win. Pawan Singh / The National
Marius Sumudica says Al Shaab's focus is only on a win. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // The Pro League this season has been a tale of two halves. In the top half, Al Ain have been unstoppable, and last night Cosmin Olaroiu and his merry men strutted around the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium with the trophy.

In the bottom half, Kalba, Dibba Al Fujairah and Al Shaab have been involved in a game of musical chairs, trading places through the season until Kalba were knocked out of the battle for survival two weeks back.

Dibba and Shaab, however, are still in the game and one of them could be celebrating as hard, if not more than Al Ain, when the curtains officially come down on the competition tonight.

The two protagonists of the final day are separated by two points - Shaab have 22 and Dibba 20 - and given their slim advantage, Marius Sumudica's men will certainly fancy their chances, even more so because Al Shabab will probably rest their top stars for tonight's game with their focus being Tuesday's President's Cup final against Al Ahli.

Dibba, on the other hand, will have to beat Etisalat Cup winners Ajman and hope Shaab lose at Shabab because if their relegation rivals get a point tonight, even a win would not be enough to save Abdullah Misfir's team.

They have lost both their league matches against Shaab, which means the Sharjah club will survive on head-to-head if both teams finish level on 23 points.

"People are saying we need only one point, but you think it will be easy against Shabab?" said Sumudica. "They might not play their full team, but then, they are a very strong side and their reserve players have shown they can get the job down.

"I believe we deserve to stay in the Pro League, but the players need to prove that on the pitch.

"We should forget about the Ajman and Dibba game, and focus on our own match. This is a final for us and our target should be a win. If we play for one point, we will be under pressure until the final second and then anything can happen. So we need to win this game."

Like Sumudica, Misfir also believes his team deserves to stay in the Pro League. Languishing at the bottom of with four points after the first half of the league season (Shaab and Kalba had seven each), the Fujairah club have managed 16 points from 12 matches of the second half, beating the league's top two - Al Ain and Ahli - and sharing points with third-placed Al Jazira.

"We know we face a really difficult task," said Misfir. "Ajman are the Etisalat Cup champions and they have some really good foreign local players. But whatever happens tonight, I believe Dibba have done enough to earn the respect and appreciation of everyone.

"We've had a really difficult season and we have not played at home. In the first half, we played our home matches in Al Ain and then at Fujairah. Still we have managed to beat teams like Al Ain, Ahli, Dhafra and Al Wasl.

"So while we know we have a difficult task against Ajman, we also know it is not impossible. We still have a chance and we are going to fight till the final second."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae