Daggers drawn for Al Nasr, Shabab Al Ahli clash in Arabian Gulf Cup final today - GulfToday

Daggers drawn for Al Nasr, Shabab Al Ahli clash in Arabian Gulf Cup final today

Arabian Gulf Cup

Shabab Al Ahli players attend a training session on Thursday, ahead of their Arabian Gulf Cup final against Al Nasr.

All eyes will be on Sharjah Stadium when Shabab Al Ahli take on Al Nasr on Friday in a much-anticipated Arabian Gulf Cup final, which will be held under the slogan ‘Year of the 50th Cup Final’ in celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee.

The record four-time champions will lock horns with the titleholders in a repeat of last year’s final, which saw Al Nasr claim their second title.

Shabab Al Ahli completed their training on Thursday under the watchful eyes of boss Mahdi Ali as his players looked to be in high spirits. He urged them to be decisive in front of the goal, as they fight for a record-extending fifth Arabian Gulf Cup title.

The Blues will be looking to earn their second title in a row. Meanwhile, their opponents will be seeking to avenge last season’s defeat while eyeing a record-extending fifth title.

Although reigning champions Al Nasr received a bye into the quarter-final, their road to the 2020-2021 final has been a bumpy one. They edged Fujairah 2-1 on aggregate in the quarters after drawing 1-1 at home and winning 1-0 away from home.

They were then pitted against underdogs Ittihad Kalba, who grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the first leg and Al Nasr won the second leg with the same scoreline before advancing to the final on penalties.

With Argentine coach Ramon Díaz at the helm, Al Nasr head into the final with a star-studded squad. It includes Toze, who was involved in eight goals in the past eight games, scoring four goals and assisting four, in addition to in-form Ryan Mendes and Diaa Saba.

On the other hand, it has been a fairly smooth ride to Sharjah for Shabab Al Ahli, who beat Al Dhafra 4-1 on aggregate in the playoffs (1-1 draw at home and 3-0 away win). Then, they headed into the semi-final with a 9-2 aggregate win over Khorfakkan before overpowering Al Wasl 5-1 on aggregate to book their spot in the final.

Shabab Al Ahli boss Mahdi Ali will be seeking his second accolade of the season after sealing the Arabian Gulf Super Cup title against Sharjah. Igor Jesus, who was involved in seven goals in five matches (four goals and three assists), is likely to play a big role in the final alongside Carlos Eduardo, Federico Cartabia, and Jaloliddin Masharipov.

Ali’s side edged out Sharjah to take the Arabian Gulf Super Cup in January and the Emirati is now confident of adding his second piece of silverware at Sharjah stadium since taking charge in December.

“We reached the final after a great effort, and reaching the final is not an achievement, but winning the title is a real achievement,” he said.

“The match will not be easy, though. The two teams have a long history and it’s one of the oldest derbies played in the UAE. The chances of both teams are equal, and of course a final has a special appeal for both teams,” he added.

Shabab Al Ahli goalkeeper Majed Naser returns after serving a one-match ban while their Italian midfielder Federico Cartabia will have to pass a fitness test.

“Majed will be in the final after missing the match against Al Dhafra because of suspension and then we rested him in the next game with the cup final in mind,” Mahdi Ali said.

“Cartabia is undergoing a rehabilitation programme after his recent injury, and now he is participating in the training. We still have time until the day of the match because he is a key player.”

Ramon Diaz, the Nasr manager, insisted they too are ready for the challenge and looking forward for a performance that would give them a second successive cup.

“Reaching the final wasn’t an easy task but we made it thanks to the efforts of my players,” the Argentine said.

Meanwhile, in an effort to enhance the match viewing experience while adhering to precautionary measures, the UAE Pro League announced a set of innovative initiatives ahead of the Arabian Gulf Cup final.

The match will see the UAE Pro League introduce the in-stadium interactive crowd noise for the first time, as players will be able to hear the fans’ chants as they fight for the Arabian Gulf Cup title. In an effort to unify the match experience, the same crowd noise will be used in-stadium and on TV coverage.

The event is set to kick off with a magnificent musical production that draws inspiration from the Year of the 50th Cup Final slogan. It is produced under the supervision of poet and lyricist Ali Al Khawar and in collaboration with singers Fayez Al Saeed and Balqees.

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