x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Shabab to stem the rot

Toninho Cerezo is hoping for a turnaround in Al Shabab's fortunes when they visit Al Khaleej in the fifth round of matches.

The Al Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo says the passing in the midfield leaves much to be desired.
The Al Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo says the passing in the midfield leaves much to be desired.

DUBAI // Toninho Cerezo is hoping for a turnaround in Al Shabab's fortunes when they visit Al Khaleej in the fifth round of matches. Shabab have made a spluttering start to the defence of their league title, especially on the road where they have lost both their games. They are lying at seventh on the points table after four games of the UFL as they travel to Khor Fakkan for the game today evening.

The Slashers lost 2-0 at Al Ain in their last UFL game, but Cerezo has had two weeks since then to work on the chinks in their armour. Shabab were not involved in the President's Cup matches as they had a first-round bye. Instead they worked hard in training and Cerezo hopes some positives will be in evidence against Khaleej. "We have not been playing as well as we can," said the Brazilian coach. "Our focus has not been very good and our passing in the midfield and attack leaves a lot to be desired.

"We have worked hard and hope to put up a better performance. But we also understand that all teams will come out strong against us, because we are the defending champions. "Khaleej have not won a single point, but we cannot afford to take them lightly. We have all the respect for them, but if we play to our potential, we should be able to get a good result." Al Wahda will also be hoping for a similar change of fortune when they host Al Sharjah today. Wahda had got their campaign off to a flourishing start, but then lost 3-2 at Al Shaab in their last UFL game and struggled to down Hatta in the Presdient's Cup last week.

Fahad Masood, the midfielder, said Wahda have learned their lesson and will bounce back stronger. "This is just the start of the season and there is a long road ahead of us," he said. Wahda have conceded nine goals in their last three games and the Tunisian defender Karim al Awadhi, who returns to the side from to suspension, urged the back-four to show more resilience. "To concede nine goals in three games is unacceptable," said Awadhi. "The coach Ahmed Abdulhaleem has been working hard on that and I am confident we will do a lot better in the coming period."

arizvi@thenational.ae