Al Wahda v Al Shabab, Friday, 7.20pm, AD Sports
ABU DHABI // Hamdan Al Kamali says his Al Wahda side are at full strength for the first time in the season as they prepare to face Al Shabab in the Arabian Gulf Cup final tonight at Al Maktoum Stadium.
“We have suffered from many injuries and suspensions from the beginning of the season, and this game will be the first time that we can call on a full squad,” said the Wahda centre-back.
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According to Al Kamali, the three-week break from domestic competitions during the national team’s 2018 Asian World Cup qualifying matches has also benefited the players to prepare both technically and physically.
“We hope to give our full power to achieve a positive result in the cup final,” Al Kamali said.
“Our goal was to reach the final, and now we have done that, the next is to please our fans. I am sure they will come in numbers to be behind us.”
One of the driving factors behind the club’s resurgence this season is their coach Javier Aguirre who has made a strong push to promote more youngsters into the Wahda first team, often preferring them in important games to more established players.
“We have one of the youngest squads in the competition this season. This is because our coach doesn’t believe in the names but talent and abilities, and it has worked very well for us,” Al Kamali said.
“The younger players have proved that they are up to the challenge and they can take responsibility, and now our targets remain to finish in the top four in the league and also to try to win the President’s Cup.
“We have been without a trophy for too long now and winning this would be a huge incentive for us. It’s a special tournament for us, especially for the young players, and winning this would give us the momentum to continue doing something special in the coming seasons.”
Al Shabab, who were promoted to the final after the Football Association's Disciplinary Committee threw Al Ahli out after Cosmin Olaroiu's side were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player during their semi-final win over Shabab, have defeated Wahda in both their meetings in the Arabian Gulf League this season, but Essa Mohammed, Shabab's veteran centre-back, said those results count for little now.
“This is a new game and a final, and everything to play for. So the past results don’t matter anymore,” he said.
“Our journey in the cup competition has been better than any other team. We were the first to qualify from the group stage to the semi-finals.
“I believe we deserve to be here. Now we have a chance to win the title and we will give 100 per cent to achieve it.
“Wahda have been having a good season and they have many good players in the calibre of Sebastian Tagliabue and Jorge Valdivia. They have also quality in every line.
“So this game will not be easy of course. We need to be calm and focused in order to win.”
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