Al Shabab seek to recover from slip-up against Baniyas

Second-place finish in Arabian Gulf League unlikely but still not impossible, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Al Shabab, in green, have lost four out of five Arabian Gulf League matches but still have the chance to finish second in the table. Ashraf Umrah / Al Ittihad
Al Shabab, in green, have lost four out of five Arabian Gulf League matches but still have the chance to finish second in the table. Ashraf Umrah / Al Ittihad

DUBAI // Al Shabab will be hoping to bring their disappointing slide in the Arabian Gulf League to an end when they host Baniyas on Friday night in their final domestic match of the season.

Shabab seemed firmly ensconced in the battle for second place behind Al Ahli when they beat Al Dhafra at home on March 21.

But Marcos Paqueta’s men have lost four of the five league matches since, claiming a solitary point in that period thanks to a 1-1 draw with the champions.

They lost 1-0 at Dubai, were beaten 2-1 at home by Al Wahda, lost 2-1 at Al Nasr and then 3-2 at Emirates, and those reversals have allowed Wahda to move ahead of them into second position.

Shabab had further disappointment on Monday when, in their quest to reach the final of the Gulf Clubs Championships, they visited Omani club Saham in the first leg of the semis and were beaten 3-1.

Paqueta’s men can still finish second at home in the AGL if they beat Baniyas and Wahda lose to relegated Al Shaab on Sunday, which seems a long shot, but they are not giving up on their hopes.

“It is a difficult task, but not impossible,” said Rashid Jumaa, the administrative manager of the Shabab team. “The team has put itself in a critical position and so they will be determined to set things right.

“We need a win over Baniyas to save the season, especially given our negative results in recent matches.

“We have failed to get a win in five matches, so we need to win this match.”

Despite their recent surge, Al Ain have no hopes of challenging for the second spot, so coach Zlatko Dalic will be giving his regulars a break when his team visit Al Wasl tonight for their final league match, especially since they still have two important non-league matches to play.

They host Al Jazira on Tuesday in the second leg of their Asian Champions League last-16 clash after they won 2-1 against Walter Zenga’s men in the first leg this week.

They then have a high-profile friendly on Thursday against English Premier League leaders Manchester City before their tilt at a trophy next Sunday, when they will be out to thwart Ahli’s historic bid for a domestic clean sweep in the final of the President’s Cup.

“I am going to rest the players for the AGL match against Al Wasl,” Dalic said this week, revealing that his focus is no longer on their league position.

“We have 10 days to turn things around and make up for the slow start to the season.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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