Football in the capital has never been more popular, so it’s quite fitting that this year’s Matchworld Cup has been moved from our neighbouring Emirate of Dubai to Abu Dhabi.Taking place on January 16 and 19 the tournament is swiftly developing a reputation among some of the world’s elite clubs as the place to take their players during the traditional winter break to keep their stamina and fitness levels sharp in preparation for the second half of their domestic season. Last year’s winners, FC Zenit St. Petersburg, are back to defend their title but they’ll face some stiff competition. Here, we look at the line up for 2013 that’ll be gracing the pitch at the Al Jazira Bin Zayed Stadium.
FC Zenit St. Petersburg
Last year’s winners will be looking to retain the trophy and take it home to their native Russia. An attractive team with bags of quality they’ll be the ones to watch this time around. Under the guidance of Italian coach Luciano Spalleti they won their second successive Russian title in April last year. They’re also renowned for paying big money to bring in some of the world’s most famous players. Recently they’ve added the supreme striking talent of the Brazilian Hulk, and shocked the sporting world along the way. For those non-football fans that’s his nickname by the way – he’s not some South American chap who goes a funny colour when he gets a bit miffed. They also signed up the much sought after Belgian Alex Witsel too. Having won both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA super cup in 2008 they’re a club who like to finish on top.
FC Shakhtar Donetsk
The current reigning Ukrainian champions are the team we’d imagine will probably offer the stiffest challenge to Zenit St. Petersburg. Another proud club with a fantastic tradition of winning, they’ve thrilled football fans all over the world with some of their performances in recent years. Arguably, most notably when they picked up the UEFA Cup in 2009, thus becoming the first Ukrainian club to do so. Their current squad boasts two players who are reportedly coveted by some of the biggest clubs in Europe in the shape of the talented Brazilian duo Willian and the striker Luiz Adriano. Having transformed themselves into a formidable unit over the years it’ll be intriguing to see how they match up against the other sides in the tournament.
Al Hilal FC
A quick look at Al Hilal’s list of conquests shows that they’re a team more than capable of taking this trophy home this year, just like they did back in 2011. The Saudi Arabian team have won their domestic league 13 times as well as winning the Saudi King’s Cup six times, the Crown Prince Cup 11 times and they’ve also been crowned the AFC Champions League winners twice. They’ll be hoping to put in a strong showing against the big hitters from Russia and the Ukraine, not to mention the strong Egyptian contenders. Which brings us nicely onto our final team of the tournament.
Egyptian Premier League side Zamalek SC are another team with a strong outside chance of springing a shock in this year’s cup. They’re no strangers to picking up winner’s medals either, including 11 league titles and 21 national cup wins amongst many other accolades. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
For more information visit www.matchworld-cup.com
Wednesday 16th January
5pm First game
8pm Second game
Saturday 19th January
5pm First game
8pm Second game