Arabian Gulf Cup final: Mahdi Ali confident of second trophy for Shabab Al Ahli

Al Nasr bidding to retain the cup at Sharjah stadium on Friday

Shabab Al Ahli celebrate after beating Sharjah to win the Arabian Gulf Super Cup in January. Courtesy PLC
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Manager Mahdi Ali believes Shabab Al Ahli have the momentum to claim a second trophy of the season when they meet Al Nasr in the Arabian Gulf Cup final on Friday.

Ali's side edged out Sharjah to take the Arabian Gulf Super Cup in January and the Emirati is now confident of adding his second piece of silverware at Sharjah stadium since taking charge in December.

“We reached the final after a great effort, and reaching the final is not an achievement, but winning the title is a real achievement,” he said.

“We will seek to replicate our [Arabian Gulf Super Cup] performance against Nasr. We had seven days to prepare and we are ready and hope to present a match worthy of a final.

“The match will not be easy, though. The two teams have a long history and it’s one of the oldest derbies played in the UAE. The chances of both teams are equal, and of course a final has a special appeal for both teams.”

Shabab Al Ahli goalkeeper Majed Naser returns after serving a one-match ban while their Italian midfielder Federico Cartabia will have to pass a fitness test.

“Majed will be in the final after missing the match against Al Dhafra because of suspension and then we rested him in the next game with the cup final in mind,” Mahdi Ali said.

“Cartabia is undergoing a rehabilitation programme after his recent injury, and now he is participating in the training. We still have time until the day of the match because he is a key player.”

Ramon Diaz, the Nasr manager, insisted they too are ready for the challenge and looking forward for a performance that would give them a second successive cup.

“Reaching the final wasn’t an easy task but we made it thanks to the efforts of my players,” the Argentine said.

“We have assessed Shabab Al Ahli’s strengths and weaknesses and we are confident we can win, although it is a new challenge.

“The level of competition in UAE football is very strong, and reaching the final wasn’t easy. It is the culmination of some brilliant performances from the players in every game."

Diaz emphasised the finals are not decided by statistics but on the best performance on the day.

"Nothing is impossible in football,” he added. “We will work hard and we will do everything to win. I think the match is equal, and who will be more focused and less mistakes will win.”