The Boss brace up for Cheetahs' challenge
Saleem Abdulrahman, assistant coach, Al Wasl during a Press conference at Al Wasl Club in Dubai.
Dubai - Al Wasl have the skill to match Al Ain in President's Cup quarters
Al Ain, the 2015-16 runners-up in the recently concluded Arabian Gulf League (AGL), and Al Wasl who finished sixth, meet in the quarterfinals of the President's Cup knockout soccer tournament - kickoff 7.40pm in Abu Dhabi at Al Jazira Club (Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium), on Thursday.
Al Ain who fell nine points short of newly crowned champions Al Ahli (66 points from 26 matches) are the favourites to win the clash though the Cheetahs who enjoyed third position status for some time in the AGL, are no pushovers.
The Boss from the Garden City have won the President's Cup five times apart from the 12 times they have etched their names on the AGL trophy while Dubai's Al Wasl have lifted the Cup twice in addition to the seven AGL crowns when they were a dominant force here once.
In the pre-quarterfinals, Al Wasl overcame Al Wahda 4-3 after extra time while Al Ain had an easier passage with a 4-0 victory over Al Ittihad Kalba who have been promoted to the AGL next season along with Hatta FC from Division 1
Saleem Abdulrahman, the stand-in coach for Al Wasl on Tuesday, said: "Al Ain are a powerful force and have a tradition of being one of the more consistent sides here and abroad. We played well till round 23 of the national league this season and held on well to be among the top three before slipping towards the end of the championship.
"The President's Cup is a lot different in atmosphere as you know, and the neutral venue is going to help the specific strategies we have drawn up for Al Ain."
He added: "I have been given a one match assignment for Thursday. It is both an honour and a big test to be marshalling my men against Al Ain. We have a 25-player pool to choose from and there will not be any excuses for we have a near full strength first eleven."
Al Wasl player Hassan Ameen, as usual was his confident self, saying: "There has not been a major problem in our training immediately after the national league. The players look in better spirits as we start fresh again for a new chapter with a quarters clash against the strong Al Ain team. We should be able to surprise many with the kind of approach we are going to have on Thursday to neutralise the talented Al Ain forwards and halfliners. We are not going to let reputation dictate terms in our mindset and style of play."