Al Wahda will be looking to defend their crown as they take on Pro League champions Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo on Saturday.
The Super Cup is traditionally the season’s curtain-raiser played between the previous season’s Arabian Gulf League champions and the winners of the President’s Cup. AGL champions Al Ain have won the trophy on three previous occasions, while Al Wahda will go in as the defending champions.
Al Wahda had clinched ‘The Year of Zayed Arabian Gulf Super Cup’ for the third time with a 2-0 win against city rivals Al Jazira at a packed Bani Yas Stadium in January this year. Moroccan midfielder Mourad Batna opened the scoring on 21 minutes after which Hungarian Balazs Dzsudzsak scored from a penalty as Laurentiu Reghecampf’s men laid their hands on the Super Cup for a third time following triumphs in 2002 and 2011.
Batna, who is very much a part of the Al Wahda squad this year, is hoping to inspire yet again. “The players are all fully focused,” Batna said in his comments to the Pro League Committee’s official website.
“There were a lot of positives during the pre-season training camp and we are preparing well for the match. The Al Wahda fans have always been crucial in our success and we expect similar support from them on Saturday,” the Moroccan added.
Batna — who last season scored 11 goals in the 23 appearances for Al Wahda — is bound to meet his match in local hero Hussain El Shahat, who was a familiar face at the 30 June Stadium while playing for Misr Lel-Mekasa over three seasons between 2014 and 2017.
“I respect Al Wahda’s ambitions as one of the biggest teams in the UAE, but we are determined to win the Super Cup and start this exceptional season with an achievement that drives us forward to continue achieving our objectives,” El Shahat said.
The Egyptian winger, who missed out on a World Cup debut in Russia earlier this year, was pleased to play before home fans. “I have never felt away from home in the UAE. I am delighted with the decision to have the Super Cup played in my country; it is further proof that the relationship between the UAE and Egypt is strong. Every Emirati feels Egypt is their second home and we Egyptians feel at home in the UAE too,” he noted.
“I expect massive support from our fans in Egypt, not just for me as an Egyptian, but also for Al Ain. Our fans are always ready and behind us, inside and outside the country,” he added.
Organised by Presentation Sports, this will be the second time that the Arabian Gulf Super Cup is being held overseas with the Egyptian capital also hosting it for the first time in 2016.
Kick-off is at 6pm UAE time.
By Alaric Gomes
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