x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wahda hope to avoid champions jinx

Al Wahda are confident of ending the jinx that has afflicted the reigning champions in recent years.

DUBAI // Al Wahda are confident of ending the jinx that has afflicted the reigning champions in recent years. Al Ahli, the 2009 winners, finished eighth last season. Before them, Al Shabab followed up their 2008 title triumph with a fifth-place finish and Al Wasl ended seventh as defending champions in 2007. Ahli, first in 2006, were also seventh in 2007. Wahda start the defence of their crown with an away game at Al Wasl on August 26.

Issa al Mazim, a club official who attended yesterday's draw, said: "We are ready for the new season. Everything is going well. "We start with Wasl. They are a very strong team and are definitely going to be in the running for the championship. After Wasl, we have Kalba, then Al Jazira and Al Ain. So we have a few tough matches at the start, but I believe that is good for us because later, we have the Club World Cup and the AFC [Asian] Champions League."

Wahda contribute the bulk of players to the national team and they could be missing many of their best with a packed international calendar which will see the UAE sending different teams to the Asian Games and the Gulf Cup in November. Two months later, a combined side will be hoping to bring home the country's first continental title at the Asian Cup in Qatar. Al Mazim admitted it will be tough on Wahda, but is confident the squad has enough strength in depth. arizvi@thenational.ae