x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shaab strengthen squad ahead of Pro League play-offs

Careca joins the team as they prepare to play Sharjah, Dhafra and Emirates in the round robin decider.

Careca started the season at Al NAsr but left in January to make way for Luca Toni.
Careca started the season at Al NAsr but left in January to make way for Luca Toni.

DUBAI // Al Shaab have signed Careca, the former Al Nasr striker, to lead their attack for the Pro League play-offs in September.

Shaab have also brought in the former Dubai striker Michael N'dri of France as the Sharjah club make a bid to return to the top division for the first time since 2009.

The play-offs - involving Shaab, Sharjah, Al Dhafra and Emirates - will decide which two teams will join the other 12 in the expanded 14-team Pro League next season.

The dates for the play-off are yet to be decided, but the draw for the tournament was held earlier this week. Shaab will start their campaign against Emirates in the opening round, while Sharjah will take on Al Dhafra.

In the second round, traditional rivals Shaab and Sharjah will square-off for the first time since 2008/09 and Dhafra will take on Emirates. In the final round, Sharjah will meet Emirates and Shaab will face Dhafra.

All the play-off matches except two will be held in Dubai. Dhafra's games against Shaab and Sharjah will be played in Al Ain.

Careca started last season with Nasr, but was taken off the club's squad in January to make room for Luca Toni. The Brazilian moved to Al Khaleej in Division One after that and was a big success.

Dr Abdullah Ali Sahu, the chairman of Shaab, said his club were looking at a number of other players to strengthen the squad ahead of the play-offs.

"The coming days are really important for us," he said. "We are looking to strengthen the squad with both local and foreign players. Getting the team ready for the play-offs is our main target and hopefully we will achieve our dream of qualifying for the Pro League and return to our natural place among the country's top clubs."

There have been changes in Sharjah as well ahead of the play-offs with Khamis Al Suwaidi taking over as the chairman of the board after Sheikh Ahmed bin Abdullah stepped down from the post.

"I know we face a difficult stage ahead of us, but I am optimistic," Al Suwaidi told the media after taking up the "challenge". "We will work hard to restore Sharjah to its former status, but we know the task will not be easy. But through our combined efforts, we will gradually get Sharjah to where we aspire to be."

Sharjah, who finished bottom of the Pro League table last season, are in talks with a number of players, and have sealed a deal with the former Tunisia and Libya national team coach Faouzi Benzarti to manage the team.

"I have not signed a formal contract with Sharjah yet, but I have given my consent in principle," Benzarti, who has already stepped down from his job at the Tunisian club Etoille du Sahel, was quoted as saying in the Tunisian media.

"I know that the main objective [of Sharjah] is to retain in their place in the Pro League and this is what I seek to achieve because Sharjah deserve to be playing in the top division and not the amateur league."

arizvi@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE