After the qualification of Bani Yas, Fujairah and Ittihad Kalba to the quarter final of the Arabian Gulf Cup on Thursday, six other teams will be fighting for the three remaining spots on Friday.
The three remaining playoff second leg matches will see Khorfakkan welcome Al Ain at home and Al Dhafra host Shabab Al Ahli both at 6pm, while Al Wasl clash with Al Wahda at 9pm.
Hosts Al Dhafra technically have a slightly higher advantage over their opponents Shabab Al Ahli after their 1-1 draw at Rashid Stadium in the first leg.
However, Al Dhafra have slipped off the space in recent weeks as they suffered two consecutive defeats against Sharjah (5-0) and Al Ain (4-1) in the league. Shabab Al Ahli also aren’t exactly in their best form as they enter the game on the back of a 2-2 draw with 13th-placed Khorfakkan.
Al Dhafra coach Aleksandar Veselinovic said his team will miss the services of seven players against Shabab Al Ahli. “I have confidence in Al Dhafra players' abilities. We understand it will be a difficult game,” he said.
“We need to focus for the full 90 minutes. Our goal is to do our best and advance to the next round,” he added.
On the other hand, Shabab Al Ahli coach Gerard Zaragoza expects a tough game against Al Dhafra. “They are a strong team and have a good season so far,” he explained.
He added, “the Arabian Gulf Cup competition is different from the league. We expect to put in a good performance and earn a positive result,” he added.
Khorfakkan are favorites to qualify from their encounter with Al Ain after their surprise 4-2 away from home win over Al Ain at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Khorfakkan’s win over Al Ain in the cup remains their only victory of the season so far, as they succumbed to one draw and four league defeats, including a loss to Al Ain.
On the other hand, Al Ain’s performance has been below par, with two wins, two draws and a defeat in the league so far. And while it is technically difficult to overturn their first leg defeat, the Boss will be looking to keep the momentum alive after their late 4-1 win over Al Dhafra in matchweek 5.
Al Ain coach Pedro Emanuel acknowledged the difficulty of his side’s game against Khorfakkan in the cup. “We look to achieve our goals and we have confidence in our abilities. However, no team will put in their best performance while missing eight or nine players,” he added.
He added that the match will be a chance for the rest of the players to show their abilities and skills and prove they deserve to play for Al Ain. “It will be like a final game for us, we either win and continue in the competition or get eliminated early on,” he added.
His Khorfakkan counterpart Caio Zanardi said, “we have a strong advantage from the first leg, but we won’t depend on it. We will try to maintain the performance and the result.”
He added that they will be facing a tough opponent, who they have to fully respect. “We have to be confident to earn a positive result. Our first leg performance proves that we have what it takes to beat any team,” he added.
Al Wasl enter their game with Al Wahda at Zabeel Stadium at 9pm with a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at Al Nahyan Stadium. It will be a repeat of their most recent encounter in matchweek 5 of the league, which saw Al Wahda emerge 3-2 victorious. This marked Al Wasl’s third defeat of the season, while Al Wahda lost only once to leaders Sharjah.
Al Wasl coach Salem Rabee stressed that the Arabian Gulf Cup matches are different from the Arabian Gulf League games. “Each game is different, and we need to separate the two competitions and deal with them differently,” he explained. “We want to put in strong performances in all competitions,” he added.
Despite winning the first leg, Al Wasl coach expects a tough second leg against Al Wahda.
Meanwhile, Al Wahda coach Vuk Rasovic believes his team need to double their effort against Al Wasl. “Our defeat in the first leg requires us to put more effort and fight against Al Wasl to book our spot in the quarter final,” he explained.
He added, “meeting Al Wasl for the second time only a few days after our league encounter makes the game more difficult. Our goal is to get a positive result.”