Abu Dhabi: Holders Al Jazira will find the going tough when they face their traditional rivals and neighbours Al Wahda tonight in Abu Dhabi derby in the quarter-finals of the President’s Cup, while league leaders Al Ain face Bani Yas in another difficult and crucial clash.
Al Jazira, who won the trophy in the last two years on the trot and Al Wahda know that they have a good chance of saving their season if they won the cup as the league silverware seems headed for Al Ain, who have a nine-point advantage at the top of the Etisalat Pro-League table. Both teams have always been competitive and are among the top contenders for the domestic titles in the past decade, with their international players brimming with high morale following the recent success of the UAE in the Gulf Cup and qualifiers of the 2015 Asian Cup (Al Jazira boast six UAE players and Al Wahda have three).
The winner of the Abu Dhabi derby will face Al Shabab in the semifinals. Al Shabab defeated Sharjah last week in the same round because they have a playoff match in the AFC Champions League.
Meanwhile, Al Ain will have a good chance to pursue two objectives if they manage to defeat Bani Yas. First they will be on their way to winning the double while they will also avenge last season’s defeat when they were beaten by Bani Yas in the semifinals of the same competition.
While both teams have many key players with the national team, Al Ain have the chance of winning all three domestic titles this season as the league leaders have a big chance of reaching the semifinals of the Etisalat Cup and the President’s Cup.
Just beating Al Ain has become a big achievement in the local football grounds following their brilliant performances and positive results, irrespective of the absence of their top players like Asamoah Gyan, who was with Ghana in the African Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Al Ahli face Dibba Fujairah in a seemingly easier match on Monday, but Dibba have proved that they are no pushovers after beating Al Wasl in the quarter-finals.
The quality of players and the level of experience make Al Ahli favourites but the cup is the competition of surprises.