Abu Dhabi: The Arabian Gulf League trophy may have already landed at the cabinet of Sharjah FC but as the curtains come down on the tournament, there is still plenty to play for three of capital’s high profile teams — Al Ain, Al Wahda and Al Jazira on Sunday.
‘The Boss’ will be taking on ‘Clarets’ in the season’s last fixture at Al Nahyan Stadium with a spot in the next season’s AFC Champions League at stake. The action starts at 10pm.
Al Ain are currently third in the group with 46 points while Al Wahda stand on fifth with 43. With Al Jazira, who will be facing Al Nasr, splitting the two with 44 points, win is the best way for these three teams to keep themselves away from other permutations and combinations.
The team that finish fourth won’t get a direct qualification and have to come through a qualifying round but it is still better than completely missing the bus.
Al Wahda come into the contest after sharing points with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad to finish at the top of their group in the AFC Champions League going into the round of 16.
Al Ain, having already been knocked out of the tournament, lost their last AFC Champions League group fixture against Esteghlal FC of Iran 2-1.
Al Ain coach Juan Carlos Garrido said that the match is important for them for several reasons. “Qualifying for the next season’s AFC Champions League is a major prize. It allows some of the players to leave a great impression before leaving the team. We are certainly required to show the fighting spirit and achieve a strong outcome,” Garrido said at the prematch press briefing.
Al Ain’s Swedish striker Marcus Berg, who will have a key role to play in the outcome of the contest, also endorsed his coach’s views. “Each team is looking forward to the three points, especially for us as we’re going into the last match. We would like to leave a good impression with the concluding match at home. We will show that we are the best and have the potential to get the best result,” said Berg.
Al Wahda coach Henk Ten Cate, who has already announced his exit from the club, will be looking to sign off on a high. He has already done wonders with the team by leading them to Round-of-16 of AFC Champions League for the first time since 2007.
A berth in next year’s AFC Champions League too will certainly be another high point in the illustrious career of the Dutchman and he is expected to do everything in his power to get Al Wahda across the line.
“It is an important match for every one of us. We are determined to try and qualify. I want to finish from here on a high and the players are also equally keen. It’s going to be a good contest,” said Ten Cate.
Catch the match
Al Ain vs Al Wahda (10pm) Al Nasr vs Al Jazira (10pm)