Shabab Al Ahli must be 'mentally strong' against Al Ain as they eye sixth Pro League Cup

Manager Mahdi Ali believes his team now have momentum on their side going into Wednesday's final at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium

Shabab Al Ahli manager Mahdi Ali has just seen his team play six Asian Champions League matches across three weeks in Saudi Arabia. AFP
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Shabab Al Ahli manager Mahdi Ali has urged his players to be “mentally strong” ahead of their Pro League Cup final against Al Ain at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The Dubai club go into the game on the back of a hectic fixture list, having played six matches across three weeks in Saudi Arabia to qualify for the Asian Champions League Round of 16.

They also had to face Al Ain in the Adnoc Pro League on their return and, having lost 1-0 in that game on April 30, they meet the same opponent in a cup final four days later.

“It has been a very busy schedule but the important thing is we qualified for the Round of 16 in the continental championship,” Mahdi Ali said at the pre-match conference on Tuesday.

“Of course, physically it has been tough for the players but they need to be mentally sharp when we meet Al Ain. If you are mentally strong, you can deal with the physical aspect of the game.

“We are in a final and this the only title we can win this season. Al Ain is a strong side but I believe our team is equally good to match them.

“We had a lot of issues at the beginning of the season, dealing with injuries and late registration. We have now reached a good level and we have got momentum on our side.”

Shabab Al Ahli players training ahead of the Pro League Cup final. Photo: UAE Pro League

Shabab Al Ahli are chasing a sixth Cup title and should be nearly at full strength for the clash, although Mahdi Ali will have to make calls on players with injury and fatigue issues before deciding on his starting XI.

He said midfielder Majed Hassan has not fully recovered from an injury he sustained in the Asian Champions League but Argentinian Federico Cartabia is back in the training and will have a fitness test on the morning of the match.

Al Ain manager Serhiy Rebrov described the final as “one game and a title to win” for the long time leaders of the Adnoc Pro League.

“We met Shabab Al Ahli three days ago but that win against them doesn’t tell the actual story,” the Ukrainian said.

Al Ain training ahead of Wednesday's Pro League Cup final in Abu Dhabi. Photo: UAE Pro League

“This is one game and a title to win. We have the full squad at our disposal and our ever-present fans behind us. We have had a good season and looking forward to a good result.”

Rebrov pointed out that it has been tough for the players as they head towards the end of the season with the weather getting warmer by the day.

“At this point our focus is only on tomorrow’s final,” he said. “For now, we have stopped thinking of the league and I have told my players this is just one game.

“I have put that game we won three days ago against Shabab Al Ahli as history and looking forward to the one we are to play. We know they didn’t field their best line-up, perhaps, saving it for tomorrow. It’s going to be a close and good match.”

Updated: May 03, 2022, 4:30 PM