Players of Al Ain team celebrate after winning against Al Nasr Club during Arabian Gulf League at Shabab Al Ahli in Al Awir, Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: From the looks of it, this season of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) once again looks like a divided battle for honours with perhaps six or seven teams seriously in the fray and the rest fighting to keep up.

The AGL will revert to its regular format of 14 teams this term. It has been a norm in the past few years for the big seven from the country going all out for end-of-season honours while the remaining seven give chase with the occasional upset or two.

In the race as genuine contenders will be teams such as defending champions Al Ain, Al Wahda, Dubai neighbours Al Wasl and Al Nasr, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Al Jazira and Sharjah.

Perhaps, a team such as Al Wahda will start off with an advantage after winning the season-opening Super Cup as the 44th edition of the AGL kicks off with the opening round over the weekend.


On the receiving end could be teams such as Ajman, Dibba Fujairah, Al Dhafra, Emirates Club and Fujairah Club alongside freshly promoted Ittihad Kalba and Bani Yas.

Perhaps, a team such as Al Wahda will start off with an advantage after winning the season-opening Super Cup as the 44th edition of the AGL kicks off with the opening round over the weekend.

Winners of the Arabian Gulf Super Cup at Cairo’s June 30 Stadium last Saturday, Al Wahda will be looking at picking up their first points of the season when they host new entrants Ittihad Kalba on August 31.

Last season, The Clarets did well to lead the standings through most of the early part of season, only to limp into second place behind eventual champions Al Ain — who went on top the league for a 13th occasion with a record-breaking 53 points. Al Wahda finished with 46 points, and could do little as the records tumbled in favour of Al Ain.

Among the challengers will be the clubs from Dubai including Shabab Ahli, Al Nasr, Al Wasl along with Al Jazira and Sharjah Club. All of them have strengthened their squads this season. But, whether they have done enough through the pre-season will be seen as time rolls by.

At the other end of the spectrum, teams such as Bani Yas, Ittihad Kalba and Fujairah Club along with survivors Emirates Club are bound to find the going tough.

Bani Yas — crowned Division One champions — and runners-up Ittihad Kalba make it automatically into AGL action. But, with the Pro League Committee (PLC) needing another two teams so that the AGL could return to its original 14, a series of play-offs had to be held involving the two relegated sides Emirates and Hatta, and the second tier’s third and fourth-placed finishers, namely Fujairah Club and Al Hamriyah paving the way for the four — Bani Yas, Kalba, Fujairah and Emirates — to make their return into top-flight football.