Dubai: Spanish outfit Valencia FC are confident of defending the title when the Fourth Hamdan Bin Mohammad U-17 International Football Championship gets under way from Friday.
Winners against Italy’s Lega Pro last year, Valencia FC will open their campaign against Dubai’s Al Shabab, and coach Ruben Mora is confident his team can make it two in a row in the annual tournament.
“We are serious about winning the title this year too as this competition is meant to be a preparation for our team,” Mora told Gulf News.
“At the same time, our players will learn something new in each match and we can look forward to travelling back to Spain with more experience and the trophy,” he added.
Long seen as a nursery for some of Spain’s best players such as David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata and Gaizka Mendieta, Valencia FC are separated by just one point from leaders Levante in the Spanish under-17 league, with only six matches to be played.
“We needed special permission to make this trip to Dubai and we certainly want to make this count,” the coach said.
Valencia FC will be joined by Italy’s Torino FC and Saudi Arabian champions Al Nasr as the three outstation teams in the tournament, which takes place until April 20.
The eight teams have been divided into two groups, with Group A consisting of Al Shabab, Valencia FC, Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia and Al Wasl, while Group B is made up of Dubai Club, Al Ahli, Al Nasr and Torino FC. All Group A matches will be played at Al Wasl and Group B matches will be held at Al Nasr. The semi-finals on April 18 and the third place play-off and final will be held at Al Nasr.
Held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman, Dubai Sports Council (DSC), the annual tournament is meant to give youngsters from the five Dubai clubs an exposure to international football.
Group A (at Al Wasl ground)
(April 11) Al Shabab v Valencia; Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia v Al Wasl
(April 13) Al Shabab v Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia; Valencia v Al Wasl
(April 15) Al Wasl v Al Shabab; Al Nasr v Valencia
Group B (at Al Nasr ground)
(April 12) Dubai Club v Al Ahli; Al Nasr v Torino
(April 14) Al Ahli v Al Nasr; Torino v Dubai Club
(April 16) Al Ahli v Torino; Al Nasr v Dubai Club
(April 18) Semi-finals
(April 20) Final
*All kick-offs at 4.30pm and 7pm