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AFC league a huge motivation for Al Shabab.

Dubai A place in next season's AFC Champions League is one of the biggest motivations for Al Shabab coach Paulo Bonamigo.

Speaking to Gulf News after his team's 2-2 draw with neighbours Al Ahli on Wednesday, Bonamigo said: "There is no secret about the fact that the AFC Champions League is one of the priorities for us this season.

"We should have won all three points today [Wednesday], but I suppose we will treat the next match [against Al Ain] as our most important of the season.

"We didn't start well and perform the way we were supposed to against Al Ahli. Maybe in the second half we were better, but Al Ahli did a good job by going away with one point even after being reduced to ten men," the Brazilian coach added.

Despite being hampered by the absence of at least five key players as the season concludes with the final round of the UAE Football League (UFL) next Sunday, Bonamigo was confident his band of youngsters can make it possible for Al Shabab to contest with the best teams in Asia for 2012.

"For a moment we found it difficult to even get a team ready for this match," the coach said.

Players motivated

"The AFC Champions League is an international competition where we get to play quality teams and besides the income that the club gets, it also helps motivate players to raise their game. The competition is a win-win situation for us as it also gives us a chance to experiment and try out new players while also giving Al Shabab an exposure and visibility at the Asian level," he added.

Wednesday's draw with Al Ahli sees Al Shabab with 31 points EoAC" the same as Al Wasl, one place below in fifth on the table. Al Nasr are a point above in third and even Al Wahda have an outside chance as they stand in sixth with 30 points.

"It is not just us who want to focus on this competition. There are others who are also eager to play this competition next season, and we have to go all out for the three points and make it," Bonamigo said.

The UAE gets three automatic spots in the AFC Champions League. Al Jazira and Bani Yas have already booked their places with 50 and 38 points respectively, leaving wide open the fight for the final spot for 2012.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jun 3, 2011
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