Dubai: Runaway leaders Al Ahli are confident of winning the point that will give them the Arabian Gulf League title when they host Al Wasl on Thursday.
And the 23rd round of the season takes on even more significance for the leaders as Al Wasl are the only team to have beaten them on the pitch this campaign, as their only other defeat in the standings was a win over Al Dhafra that was overturned due to a breach of league rules.
Al Ahli, who were winners of the inaugural UAE Football League season in 2009-10, are now 12 points clear of Al Shabab with four matches to play, so they need only one more point to secure the title.
“We’ve had two good games in the last couple of weeks and we hope we can finish off the league this week against Al Wasl,” said Al Ahli assistant coach Catalin Raducan.
The Red Knights are also chasing a clean sweep of all four domestic trophies this season. They have already won the season-opening Super Cup and will figure in the Arabian Gulf Cup final on April 19 against Al Ain and the season-ending President’s Cup on May 18 against Al Jazira.
They are also involved in the AFC Champions League and will set off for a match against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal immediately after facing Al Wasl.
Recalling the earlier defeat to Al Wasl, Raducan said: “We made a mistake in that game and we paid for it. Revenge is not what we are looking for. It’s been tough on the players with such a tight schedule, but once we get the league out of the way we will be in a better situation to plan.
“So it’s very important to finish everything against Al Wasl and turn our energy to the game against Al Hilal.”
Raducan, whose side will be without defender Abdul Aziz Sanghour and playmaker Luis Jimenez against Al Wasl, is pleased with the attitude of his players.
“The players understand the importance of every game and they have shown the right attitude of fighting till the end in each and every match. Such qualities make us more of a family. We’ve had a very good year till now and we want to do things in the same spirit for one more month to reward ourselves for the hard work,” he said.
In other action, Emirates will host Al Jazira and relegation-threatened Al Shaab face defending champions Al Ain on Thursday. On Friday, there will be four matches, with the highlight being a Dubai derby as second-placed Al Shabab make the short trip across the Creek to play Al Nasr.