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Al Ahli coach calls for discipline, focus

Dubai: The Al Ahli assistant coach has called for renewed focus from his players as the Red Knights zero in on a possible second crown in the professional era of the Arabian Gulf League.

Six points ahead of from chasing Al Shabab, Catalin Raducan’s men have 48 points as they host Sharjah Club in the 21st round on Thursday. Al Ahli have looked the best side so far with just two losses and last week’s last-gasp 3-2 win over two-time defending champions Al Ain has further consolidated their position at the top.

Winners of the professional league in it’s inaugural year in 2008-09, Al Ahli look the strongest so far with 15 wins, three draws and a couple of losses after 20 rounds of the competition. With the final six matches remaining before the contest concludes on May 10, Raducan is taking nothing for granted as he urged his players to maintain their focus.

“We’ve made a great start and kept up the commitment so far. But all this means nothing as we have won nothing. It is hence very important to continue keeping the focus for the next month and a half,” Raducan told Gulf News.

“Everyone says we deserve to win the title as have been the most consistent team. It may just be that the players are tired mentally and may lose their concentration, but I urge them to continue the way we began the season. Nothing is finished. We are just mid-way from achieving what we set out,” he added.

Al Ahli will be playing their fifth match in just over two weeks and it is natural for the players to be distracted a bit. “We wiil be meeting a strong team and they have made problems for us in the past. But we have just one option and that is to win and take a step towards winning the league,” Raducan observed.

“It’s not important how hard you push along the way but you need to finish the job,” he added.

Elsewhere in Dubai, fifth-placed Al Nasr will be out to bag full points as they host third-placed Al Jazira, while defending champions Al Ain will make the long trip to Ras Al Khaimah for their match against 12th-placed Emirates Club in the two early matches on Thursday.

Desperate to avoid the drop, Al Shaab, who are with 11 points in 13th position, will be looking at full points at home against Bani Yas in the second late night match.

On Friday, seventh-placed Al Dhafra will host eleventh-placed Ajman Club and Al Shabab will make the short journey to Dubai Club, who seem one of two clubs destined for relegation as they languish at the bottom with just ten points. The Friday derby will see sixth-placed Al Wahda play host to struggling Al Wasl in Abu Dhabi.