The President’s Cup semi-finals take place on Friday and Saturday, with the country’s top two teams involved in the battle for a place in the showpiece. John McAuley has the details.
UAE champions Al Ahli face a rejuvenated Al Jazira at Al Ain's Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on Friday night, while 24 hours later Al Ain and Baniyas go head-to-head at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Given their recent success, Ahli are favourites to make the final, where they are expected to meet Al Ain, their fierce rivals who finished second in the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League.
Ahli’s clash with Jazira looks like the most interesting of the two ties, with the AGL winners, beaten in the past two President’s Cup finals, taking on the in-form capital club. Asian Champions League troubles aside, Jazira won seven of their final league matches to climb to seventh in the table. They will also seek to use as inspiration from last week’s incredible quarter-final victory against Sharjah, when they twice came back from two goals down to eventually triumph on penalties.
Respecting the opponent
“We’ll try to give all efforts to pass this game and go to the final,” said Cosmin Olaroiu, the Ahli manager. “It will not be easy: Jazira are improving a lot in the last month, they are playing much better, up front have players of huge qualities and individuals that can decide the game. We have to pay attention and be fully concentrated. We expect a difficult game and we hope that we find the right solution to get past Jazira.”
Achieving the ‘impossible’
“Ahli are the best team in the league, they won the championship by miles from the rest,” said Henk ten Cate, the Jazira manager. “If we’re honest, they have more quality, but we are very difficult to beat. It’s a cup game, anything can happen. Look at the FA Cup, Crystal Palace are in the final, so anything is possible. It’s not always the best team that goes to the final. On Friday, one of two very good teams are going out with nothing.”
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