'We will upset Ronaldo': Shabab Al Ahli fans hopeful ahead of Al Nassr clash

UAE champions face star-studded Saudi side in Asian Champions League play-off on Tuesday

Jamal Al Bannai, is a loyal fan of Shabab Al Ahli. Photo: Jamal Al Bannai
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Football fans in the UAE are rooting for the country's champions Shabab Al Ahli to shock Cristiano Ronaldo and his Al Nassr teammates in their Asian Champions League play-off match on Tuesday evening.

Saudi club Al Nassr have been in the global spotlight since signing Ronaldo in December.

The teams will play in Riyadh on Tuesday and their match has generated significant buzz, with Shabab Al Ahli fans hopeful their side can triumph over their star-studded opponents.

Al Nassr have boosted their squad this summer by adding former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, former Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic and Seko Fofana, who joined from Lens. Full-back Alex Telles was also signed from Manchester United.

Targeting weak spots

Jamal Al Bannai, an Emirati Shabab Al Ahli supporter, told The National that he believes the Dubai team will make headlines tonight.

"Al Nassr are very strong and everybody will think they will win, but they have weak points that our players will take advantage of and win. We will upset Ronaldo tonight," Mr Al Bannai said.

"Our team will not be weak and our players will do their best to stop Ronaldo and Al Nassr's players. We play well against Saudi teams in general and it will be a big match tonight."

Shabab Al Ahli fans, known for their vibrant displays of support during matches, have been preparing for the play-off showdown by travelling to Saudi Arabia to support their side.

Faisal Al Shehhi, 40, plans to attend the match in Riyadh.

"I will be supporting Al Ahli in the stadium. I always follow Al Ahli club in their matches outside the country," he told The National.

"Tonight, we will add another successful chapter in our history by defeating Al Nassr and Ronaldo."

Mr Al Shehhi, who has been a loyal fan since 1987, said the team were capable of exploiting Al Nassr's weaknesses.

"They have strong strikers, but we have great defenders. Al Ahli's style depends on the counterattack, and we have fast players on the wings to make a difference," he said.

The UAE champions will be inspired by the opportunity to test themselves against Ronaldo, Mr Al Shehhi said.

"He is the greatest player in football's history and it is a dream come true for us to see our team play against him," he said.

"Our players want to prove themselves in front of him. They will give 100 per cent on the pitch as well, since all eyes will be on them.

"Whoever wins the midfield battle will win the match tonight."

Nasir Hassan, 55, will also be in Riyadh to support Shabab Al Ahli.

He expects the players to compete well against the Saudi side.

"It will be a tough match on both sides. But make no mistake, we are here to show that Al Ahli is a force to be reckoned with," Mr Hassan told The National.

"We have a chance if we close all the gaps and move the ball quickly in the counterattack. We can strike their defence.

"Our passion for the club knows no bounds and we'll be there to lift our team to victory."

Shabab Al Ahli began their Adnoc Pro League title defence on Friday with a 3-0 win against Ajman.

The Dubai side also claimed a 3-0 win over Jordanian side Al Wehdat in the preliminary play-off round to set up the clash with Al Nassr.

Ronaldo and Al Nassr started the season by winning the King Salman Club Cup, defeating Al Hilal in a dramatic final.

However, Al Nassr have lost both their Saudi Pro League games so far, with a 2-1 defeat against Steven Gerrard's Al Ettifaq, which saw Ronaldo on the bench following an injury, before a shock 2-0 home defeat to Al Taawoun with the Portuguese striker back on the pitch.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores winner as Al Nassr beat Al Shabab 3-2 – in pictures

Updated: August 23, 2023, 4:55 AM