x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tired Al Shabab seek one more push to enter Etisalat Cup semi-finals

Tonight's game at Ajman, their fourth in 14 days, is crucial to the Dubai side's progress as a packed schedule threatens to derail their season.

Marcos Paqueta's side are unbeaten in 14 matches and would like that to continue. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Marcos Paqueta's side are unbeaten in 14 matches and would like that to continue. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Marcos Paqueta is hoping his Al Shabab team will be able to shake off their fatigue and end their run of disappointing results with a victory at Ajman to book their place in the lastfour of the Etisalat Cup.

After a poor start to the season, Shabab had recovered to post a 14-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

But they have lost three of their last four matches, earning just a solitary point in those games, and the Brazilian coach believes their frequency of matches has had a part to play.

"We are playing in different competitions at the same time, many matches in short durations," said Paqueta, whose team have played three matches over the past 14 days.

"So it is a bit difficult on the players, but we are ready for this very important game."

Al Wahda and Al Jazira have already confirmed their places in the last four of the Etisalat Cup after sealing the top place in their groups and tonight's game between Ajman and Shabab will decide who tops Group C.

Ajman are currently leading with 12 points and Shabab (11 points) will have to beat the hosts to confirm their place in the last four.

A draw, however, could see both teams progress - Ajman as group winners with 13 points and Shabab as the best runner-up in the three groups with 12 points.

"This is a really crucial game for both teams and there many possible scenarios," Paqueta said. "Those are mini scenarios so both the coaches will have plenty to think about."

Al Ain are second in Group A with 15 points and they will be travelling to Al Shaab, the bottom-placed team in the group. A win will be of no consequence for the Pro League leaders as the points earned and goals scored against the bottom-placed teams in Group A and Group B do not count towards deciding the best runner-up from the three groups.

That means Al Ain will finish with 12 points and a goal difference of four.

Shabab have a goal difference of five and a draw will be enough for them to go through.

With a current goal difference of nine, Ajman could go through even if they lose, provided their defeat margin is less than five.

With the Shaab game of no consequence, Cosmin Olaroiu is expected to give his Al Ain reserves a chance, but the Romanian will be hoping Ajman do them a favour by beating a weakened Shabab, who will be missing the Emiratis Walid Abbas and Hassan Ibrahim, and the Uzbek Azizbek Haydarov who is on international duty.


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