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Egypt menace Hussein El Shahat will be in familiar surroundings during AG Super Cup clash

Al Ain’s move to make El Shahat’s switch a permanent one was a no brainer and he will look to fill the void left by Omar Abdulrahman

Matt Jones 2018/08/22

Al Ain and Al Wahda will clash in unfamiliar surroundings on Saturday with the Arabian Gulf Super Cup being played in Cairo. But one man who will feel right at home is forward Hussein El Shahat.

The Egyptian magician has been a revelation since joining the Boss on loan from Misr Lel Makkasa in his homeland in January. The 26-year-old schemer was instrumental in helping the Garden City side claim the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double.

The winger scored seven goals in just 11 AGL appearances and provided nine assists – second only to clubmate and Sweden striker Marcus Berg’s 10 – as the Boss stormed to the title for the first time in three years and a first President’s Cup crown in four.

Al Ain’s move to make El Shahat’s switch a permanent one was a no brainer and he will now be one of the main men tasked with filling the void left by UAE icon Omar Abdulrahman who left Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on a free transfer this month, returning to boyhood club Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia after refusing to sign a new contract with the AGL champions.

Al Ain meet Arabian Gulf Cup winners and AGL runners-up Al Wahda at the 30 June Stadium this weekend, and El Shahat is delighted to be playing in front of his home fans.

“I said it before, I have never felt away from home in the UAE,” said the attacker.

“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.

“I expect massive support from the fans in Egypt, not just for me as an Egyptian player, but also for Al Ain. Our fans are always ready and behind us, inside and outside the country.”

Saturday marks the second time in the last three seasons that the UAE football season’s curtain-raising encounter will be played outside the Emirates.

The 2016 showpiece between Al Ahli (now Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club) and Al Jazira was also played in Cairo while last year’s match was due to be played there, only for fixture congestion to see Wahda’s 2-0 victory over Abu Dhabi rivals Jazira played at Bani Yas Stadium instead.

El Shahat says his side are fully prepared to face rivals Wahda, insisting that he and his teammates are focused on meeting expectations ahead of the new season, one that will surely be made more challenging in the wake of Amoory’s departure.

Despite this, El Shahat believes expectations will be ever higher.

Sebastian Tagliabue scored a remarkable 42 goals in 40 games in all competitions last season for Al Wahda.

“We start on Saturday against Al Wahda, and I pray to God that we can come away from Cairo with the trophy,” said the Egyptian international.

“I respect Al Wahda’s ambition and I realise they are one of the biggest teams in the country, and I also respect their huge fan base. But we are determined to win the Super Cup and start this season with an achievement that drives us forward to continue achieving our objectives.”

Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Clarets, meanwhile, stand between the Boss and silverware. And after pushing Zoran Mamic’s men for much of last season before ultimately falling away in the final months of the AGL campaign, they will be determined to hoist the Super Cup as they look to the loftier goal of winning the league title for the first time since 2009/10.

One man who will be equally as crucial to their ambitions as El Shahat is to Al Ain’s is veteran Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue – who was named the AGL’s Best Foreign Player for a second time last term.

The 33-year-old striker is heading into his sixth season with the Clarets and is relishing the challenge of taking on Wahda’s rivals in a fixture known locally as Al Clasico.

And Tagliabue is in defiant mood as he pointed to the Clarets’ record of winning each of their last four cup finals across all competitions – they are reigning Super Cup champions and also won the 2017 President’s Cup and 2015/16 AG Cup in addition to the 2017/18 trophy.

“The Super Cup is a new challenge for us,” said Tagliabue.

“We know it will be a different and difficult type of challenge for both teams, but we will do our best.

“I hope we can win the game in the 90 minutes and bring the title home for our fans. It will be an exciting game and I hope as many Al Wahda fans are present to support us. We are always used to having the fans behind us everywhere.”

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Al Ain Al Wahda Arabian Gulf Super Cup Hussein El Shahat Laurentiu Reghecampf Sebastian Tagliabue Zoran Mamic