President's Cup final: Shabab Al Ahli recent success over Al Nasr counts for nothing, insists Mahdi Ali

Shabab Al Ahli have beaten their Dubai rivals three times this season, but their manager believes that will have no bearing on Sunday

Shabab Al Ahli, in red, and Al Nasr, in blue, contested the Arabian Gulf Cup final in April, which Shabab Al Ahli won on penalties. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Shabab Al Ahli, in red, and Al Nasr, in blue, contested the Arabian Gulf Cup final in April, which Shabab Al Ahli won on penalties. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Mahdi Ali says previous encounters this season between his Shabab Al Ahli side and Al Nasr will have no bearing on Sunday’s President’s Cup final.

The Dubai clubs go up against one another again on Sunday at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, in a repeat of last month’s Arabian Gulf Cup showpiece. Shabab Al Ahli won that match on penalties – the game had finished 0-0 – and then defeated Nasr again on Tuesday in the final round of the Arabian Gulf League, where they prevailed 3-2. It means Shabab Al Ahli have come out on top in all three meetings this season.

“The President's Cup is a dear tournament for us, and the match is important coming at the end of the season,” Mahdi Ali said on Saturday. “It will not be easy, especially since Al Nasr are a strong team.

“Each match has its own conditions and the final does not recognise any previous results. We will enter with all our strength and we are fully prepared to present a match worthy of the level of the event. The psychological, physical and mental aspects will play an important role in controlling the match.”

Already Super Cup winners, the record nine-time President’s Cup champions have enjoyed an incredible domestic run this season, with their unbeaten stint extending to 24 matches and dating back to December, not long after Mahdi Ali succeeded Gerard Zaragoza in the dugout.

“The season started not well, but after the coach arrived we’ve made a good job - we won two cups,” said Carlos Eduardo, the Shabab Al Ahli midfielder. “Of course, we wanted to win the league, but that was not possible.

Each match has its own conditions and the final does not recognise any previous results

Mahdi Ali, Shabab Al Ahli manager

“We want to take a third trophy for this season and then I think we’ve finish this season very, very well. The key is work. We worked a lot for this final. We’ve prepared well this week and hopefully we’re very ready for the final.”

Nasr, meanwhile, have lost four of their past eight matches, but will look to gain some sort of revenge for their recent reverses to now-familiar opponents. However, they go into the match with a number of key absences through suspension, including defender Glauber, midfielders Tariq Ahmed and Toze, and forward Ryan Mendes.

The final is open to a maximum 30 per cent capacity to fully vaccinated fans – the first time a football fixture has welcomed spectators in attendance since February last year.

“The final is a scenario different from the previous meetings between us,” said Nasr manager Ramon Diaz, who joined the club in February. “The meeting will be a great party, especially after the return of the 12th man.

“The absences make it possible for a number of young players to participate, and we count on experienced people to help them in our collective play.

The good thing about football is that it gives you the opportunity to take revenge, and fight to the last breath

Ramon Diaz, Al Nasr manager

“The good thing about football is that it gives you the opportunity to take revenge, and fight to the last breath. We hope to show our true self in the final. Our team is ready - we’re focused on all the tactical and technical aspects. The keys to success are focus, courage and taking initiative.”

Nasr won the last of their four President’s Cups in 2015, where they defeated Al Ahli – Shabab Al Ahli’s name before their 2017 merger – on penalties. They contested the final again two years later, but lost to Al Wahda.

Nasr midfielder Mehdi Abeid said: “First we don’t have to feel any pressure. We have to play our games as we do every time. You have to be normal and be calm to put intensity and aggression on the game. It’s a game that everyone wants to play, so enjoy it, take pleasure, and to do everything to win.

“In a final, everything is possible, everything can happen. So what you did in the past doesn’t count or doesn’t mean anything. It’s the team who will want the cup the most tomorrow, who will be the most motivated, the most aggressive, the most careful in the details as well. Because details are important.”

Published: May 16, 2021 06:43 AM

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