Dubai: Second-place Al Shabab have vowed not to give up on the title as they host Al Wahda in the 22nd round action of the Arabian Gulf League this weekend.
Last week they were reduced to nine men and lost 0-1 in the 21st round against Dubai Club to pave the way for a nine-point cushion between the top two teams in the league standings.
And this week Marcos Paqueta’s men are up against fifth-placed Al Wahda, knowing fully well that only an outright win and the three points on home turf would put their chase of leaders Al Ahli back on track.
“We have no option but go all out for three points against a very tricky opponent [Al Jazira] who have been improving all the time,” Paqueta told Gulf News.
“Our chase of Al Ahli is far from over despite last week’s loss [to Dubai Club]. Nothing seemed to go right for us and with the two red cards, our task got tougher. But we need to put these things in the past and just focus and pursue our goals for the last part of the season,” Paqueta added.
Al Ahli are at the top of the standings with 51 points, while Al Shabab are second with 42, with Al Jazira in third with 38 and Sharjah in fourth with 35 . “The pressure will definitely be there, but we just need to know what we are supposed to do to get the job done,” the Brazilian coach said.
“Our main focus is to get the second spot and this looks a very realistic target for us at the moment. If not, the idea will be to end at least in the top four and qualify for the AFC Champions League.”
In other matches on Saturday, ninth-placed Al Dhafra will host basement outfit Al Shaab, while Dubai Club will make the short trip to play Ajman and there is the Dubai derby when struggling Al Wasl host neighbours Al Nasr.
On Sunday, defending league champions Al Ain, who are in seventh position with 30 points, will host Bani Yas, while fourth-place Sharjah will host 12th-place Emirates Club.
Leaders Al Ahli will attempt to secure their seventh win on the trot in the second leg of the league as they travel to Abu Dhabi to take on third-place Al Jazira.
Meanwhile, in keeping with the UAE’s e-initiatives, Al Shabab has tied up with Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) to launch a co-branded pre-paid card for its members and fans.
Present at the launch of the new card was Frans Jan Burkens, Deputy General Manager, Personal Banking Group, CBD and Khalifa Hareb, Board Member, Al Shabab and Mattar Surour, CEO, Al Shabab.
The CBD Al Shabab pre-paid card seeks to significantly reduce administrative paperwork and costs for the club management and eliminate the risk involved in the distribution of large amounts of cash. The cashless solution will also enable card-holders control and track their spending more effectively through the balance enquiry and a detailed card statement each month.
ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE FIXTURES
Al Shabab vs Al Wahda, 5.50pm
Al Dhafra vs Al Shaab, 6pm
Ajman vs Dubai, 8.30pm
Al Wasl vs Al Nasr, 8.30pm
Al Ain vs Bani Yas, 5.50pm
Sharjah vs Emirates, 5.50pm
Al Jazira vs Al Ahli, 8.30pm