Battle for top of Arabian Gulf League when Al Ain face Al Shabab

The match against Al Shabab at the Maktoum Stadium on Monday night is the most important of the season, Al Ain’s coach Zlatko Dalic said on Sunday. The encounter could have significant ramifications at the top of the Arabian Gulf League table.
Coach Zlatko Dalic of Al Ain says he will have his team ready for Al Shabab's quick attacks and long balls. Ashraf Al Amra / Al Ittihad
Coach Zlatko Dalic of Al Ain says he will have his team ready for Al Shabab's quick attacks and long balls. Ashraf Al Amra / Al Ittihad

The match against Al Shabab at the Maktoum Stadium on Monday night is the most important of the season, Al Ain’s coach Zlatko Dalic said on Sunday.

The encounter could have significant ramifications at the top of the Arabian Gulf League table.

Al Ain are poised to move two points clear of the pack, with a further game in hand, if they win at Dubai.

Meanwhile, Shabab could move into first place – one point ahead of current leaders Al Jazira – if they secure a victory at home.

Caio Junior, Shabab’s coach, expects a stern test from the in-form visitors. Since a 1-1 draw away to Al Nasr last month, Al Ain have reeled off four victories by an aggregate score of 15-4.

“Al Ain are currently the strongest team in the UAE,” the Brazilian said.

“They don’t have weaknesses.

“They are strong across all positions, and they are a balanced and well-structured team.

“But I have great confidence in my players, and we will go all out to get a positive result.”

Shabab will play without the suspended Henrique Luvannor, the Brazilian-Moldovan striker who was sent off after 10 minutes into his team’s 2-1 win at Al Dhafra on Thursday.

But Al Ain will be without the injured Omar Abdulrahman.

Each of Al Ain’s expats – Asamoah Gyan, Miroslav Stoch, Lee Myung-joo and Jires Kembo-Ekoko – scored in a 4-1 rout of Sharjah on Thursday.

“Al Shabab play with quick attacks and long balls,” Dalic said. “We will prepare for this, but we will not change our playing style.

“We need to be confident and impose our own character on the pitch.

“Here at Al Ain, we have quality players who are capable of making a difference at any moment in a game.”

The match originally was set for Round 1 of the season but was postponed due to Al Ain’s participation in the Asian Champions League semi-finals.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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