Al Ahli are top of the UAE Etisalat Pro League table and Al Khaleej are at the bottom of it. So, there should be few concerns for the "Red Knights" when they host the minnows from Khor Fakkan. Ivan Hasek, however, thinks otherwise and the Ahli coach warned his side not to take tonight's game against the promoted club lightly.
"Khaleej have only one point and everyone thinks it is going to be an easy game," Hasek said. "But it is not going to be that simple. They are a good side and we will have to be at our best for the game. If we don't take the game seriously and let our concentration slip, we will be in trouble. "We are in a good position now, but if we lose this game then we will be down again. So we need to keep winning.
"Being at the top of the table now means nothing. "We need to stay humble and keep working hard. The important thing will be to be at the top of the table after 22 games." Khaleej, despite their problems with players who can train only twice or three times a week due to their day jobs, have shown themselves to be a dogged side under their Tunisian coach Samir al Juwaily. They held the defending champions Al Shabab 1-1 on Thursday night when they were denied victory by a last-minute equaliser by Mehrdad Oladi from a penalty.
An injury-time winner from Iman Mobali helped Al Wasl snatch all three points in the UFL game before, while Khaleej also tested the might of Al Jazira in the Emirates Cup and were denied a share of the points by another injury time winner, from Ibrahim Diaky. "We deserved to win three points in our last game. We have been a bit unlucky," Juwaily said. "But I am confident our luck will turn any time soon. I hope it happens against Ahli. The team is moving in the right direction and the results will follow soon.
"We are a team that never surrender or despair. There is great spirit in the side, the confidence is high, and soon we will convert this into points. We just need to focus a little better and then we will be a force to be reckoned with in the UFL." Shabab, meanwhile, will be hoping for maximum points when they host the resurgent Al Nasr tonight. The Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo said that his side's biggest problem had not been scoring enough goals.
"That has been our weakness, but we are working hard on it. Nasr will travel to Shabab without their regular goalkeeper Abdulla Mousa and the mid-fielder Mahmoud Hassan Darwish, who have been handed a two-game suspension for their part in the brawl after the 2-2 draw against Al Ain on Thursday night. The players have also been fined Dh3,000 each, while Nasr have been ordered to pay Dh15,000 and warned against a recurrence of such incidents.
The Nasr team manager Issa Juma has also been barred from entering the ground with the team for three games and fined Dh12,000 for his statements to the media about the incident. The Pro League committee (UPLC) also decided to fine Khaleej Dh10,000 for the behaviour of their fans after the 1-1 draw against Shabab. Yahya Abdul Karim, the chairman of the UPLC, warned that stricter action will be taken if there is a repeat of such incidents.
"The clubs might be forced to play at neutral venues or behind closed doors," he said. "At a time when we are trying to encourage families to come to the stadiums, such incidents defeat our purpose." firstname.lastname@example.org