Their opening match has been postponed because of Al Ain's Asian Champions League commitments, but it is still not any easier.
A confident Caio Junior is relishing the challenge.
“Playing the best teams at the start gives you an opportunity to show what you are capable of,” said the Brazilian, who replaced compatriot Marcos Paqueta after Shabab’s free-fall in the final weeks of the 2013/14 season.
“If you can win those matches, it gives your confidence a massive boost and helps in shaping the rest of the campaign.”
Junior is confident his players can do that. When he arrived at the club in July, the former Al Jazira coach said he noticed a lack of self-belief and pressure among the players, but after five friendly matches on their trip to the Netherlands and three matches here during their internal camp in Khorfakkan, he is confident last season is a closed chapter.
“I am confident we will not finish this season without a title and that is our goal,” he said. “We have got four tournaments to achieve our objectives – the league, the League Cup, the President’s Cup and the GCC Clubs Championships.
“We have got a lot of quality in the team, players you can trust. They just need a lift in their confidence and morale. We also need to make sure we are playing them in the right positions and putting their potential to best use.
“The addition of Henrique Luvannor has also strengthened the team. He is an exceptional player and we have seen what he can do in the friendly matches. He is going to be the catalyst for the team.
“So wait for the matches to start – Luvannor will be the surprise of the season.”
The only new foreign signing for the season, the Brazil-born naturalised Moldovan looks an exciting new addition. Starting his career as a defender, he moved to the attacking end of the pitch last season and scored a league-high 26 goals in 27 matches to help Sheriff Tiraspol win the Moldovan league title. He is 24.
A classy playmaker, the Chilean will be starting his fifth season with Shabab since his arrival from Blackburn Rovers in 2009. He missed the 2012/13 season because of knee surgery and probably did not meet the expectations of the fans in the last campaign, but misfiring strikers seemed more to blame for that. With Luvannor, he could form an exciting partnership.
It would be tough to find a player in the AGL who works harder than the rugged Uzbek midfielder. He is forever in the middle of the action, in the midfield or defence, and in attack, too, if the strikers are having a bad day. A bit passionate, Haydarov does court trouble at times, but his effort is not questioned.
He scored 15 goals last season, but with two red cards, seven yellows and few goals in the second half of the season, the 27-year-old Brazilian is fortunate to still be a part of Caio Junior’s squad. He had 13 goals in his debut season, when Shabab reached the President’s Cup final.
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