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

Ajman

Manager: Ayman Rammadi (EGY)

Foreign players
Adil Hermach MOR, DEF (Al Dhafra - UAE)
Vander Vieira BRA, MID (Sharjah - UAE)
Stanley Ohawuchi NIG, ATT (Al Qadisiyah – Saudi Arabia)
Mame Baba Thiam SEN, ATT (Esteghlal – Iran)

Known as The Orange Brigade, Ajman have been in and out of the AGL since 2011. However, they have proved they are capable of punching well above their weight as shown by their three major trophies — the UAE Federation Cup (2011), the UAE President’s Cup (1984) and the Etisalat Emirates Cup (2013).

Bani Yas

Manager: Krunoslav Jurcic (CRO)

Foreign players
Michael Ortega COL, MID (Deportivo Pasto – Colombia)
Leroy George NED, MID (Melbourne Victory - Australia)
Robson de Paula BRA, DEF (Boavista – Portugal)
Pedro Perez Conde ESP, ATT (PAS Giannina – Greece)

Based in the Al Shamkha region of Abu Dhabi, Bani Yas did well to win the Division One crown and make their way back into the AGL this season. Now coached by Croatian Krunoslav Jurcic, the former winners of the President’s Cup (1992) and the Gulf Cup (2013) will be hoping to keep their place, if not cause a few upsets along the way, this season.

Al Dhafra

Manager: Vuk Rasovic (SER)

Foreign players
Nicolas Milesi URU, MID (Al Hilal – Saudi Arabia)
Helder Guedes POR, ATT (Rio Ave – Portugal)
Amine Atouchi MOR, DEF (Wydad Casablanca - Morocco)
Diego Rigonato Rodriguez BRA, MID (Reims – France)

Playing out of Madinat Zayed in the Abu Dhabi region, Al Dhafra are the youngest of all clubs in the country after being founded in 2000. Known as The Western Knights, they were the surprise in the pack last season as they ended in a creditable seventh place, much better than some of the top sides in the country.

Dibba

Manager: Paulo Comelli (BRA)

Foreign players
Yahya Jabrane MOR, MID (Hassania – Morocco)
Guilherme Schettine BRA, ATT (Al Batin – KSA)
Driss Fettouhi MOR, MID (retained)
Yaseen Al Bakhit JOR, MID (retained)

One of the two clubs playing out of Fujairah, Brazilian Paulo Comelli has done well to keep together a team capable of taking on the best in the business. Their ninth-place finish in the league last season is a testament of their strength.

Emirates Club

Manager: Jalal Al Qadri (TUN)

Foreign players
Bakary Kone CIV, MID (Ajman – UAE)
Aboubacar Sylla GUI, MID (JS Kairouan – Tunisia)
Bernie Ibini-Isei AUS, MID (Vancouver Whitecaps - Canada)
Ahmad Ebrahim IRQ, DEF (retained)

The only representatives from Ras Al Khaimah, Emirates are no minnows despite having to go through a series of play-offs to keep their place in the AGL at the end of last season. On paper, they have time and again shown they are capable of winning at the top level — winning the UAE President’s Cup and the UAE Super Cup in 2010.

Fujairah

Manager: Ivan Hasek (CZE)

Foreign players
Mohammad Benyettou ALG, ATT (Al Shabab – KSA)
Fernando Gabriel BRA, MID (Hatta – UAE)
Jorge Silva BRA, ATT (Johar Darul Tazim – Malaysia)
Omar Kossoko FRA, MID (retained)

Now led by the wily Ivan Hasek, The Foxes are no pushovers in the business. Marking their golden jubilee this year, the club have had the good fortune of being in the limelight for a full season last year due to the presence of the legendary Diego Maradona on the sidelines as coach. The Argentine, however, was not on the bench when the club eventually came through a tricky set of play-offs.

Ittihad Kalba

Manager: Jorvan Vieira (BRA)

Foreign players
Florentin Matei ROU, MID (HNK Rijeka – Croatia)
Alan Santos BRA, MID (Tigres – Mexico)
Antonio Perosevic CRO, ATT (Puskas Academia – Hungary)
Raheem Lawal NIG, MID (Osmanlispor – Turkey)

Coached by the astute Portuguese Jorvan Vieira, Ittihad Kalba or simply Kalba are among the four clubs re-entering the AGL fray. After finishing runners-up to Bani Yas in Division One last season, their task will be cut out this year as they start their campaign against the mighty Al Wahda on Friday.

Al Jazira

Manager: Marcel Keizer (NED)

Foreign players
Ernest Asante GHA, MID (FC Nordsjalland – Denmark)
Sebastien Siani CMR, MID (Royal Antwerp – Belgium)
Leonardo Rodrigues Pereira BRA, MID (Al Nassr – Saudi Arabia)
Abdullah Ramadan EGY, MID (retained)

Perhaps one of the clubs who have never fulfilled their real potential, Al Jazira will be looking at a third league crown with Marcel Keizer at the helm this season. The Pride of Abu Dhabi will try to open on a winning note as they make the trip to take on Shabab Ahli on Thursday.

Al Nasr

Manager: Ivan Jovanovic (SER)

Foreign players
Marquinhos Gabriel BRA, MID (Corinthians – Brazil)
Samuel Rosa BRA, ATT (Hatta – UAE)
Lury de Castilho BRA, ATT (Zorya Luhansk – Ukraine)
Yohan Cabaye FRA, MID (Crystal Palace – England)

Founded in 1945, the UAE’s oldest team have shown consistent hunger for major trophies. Unfortunately, barring the President’s Cup at the end of the 2014-15 season, they have been made to wait for quite a while with their last league success coming in 1985-86. However, with a classy player like Yohan Cabaye to inspire them, the Blues will be hoping to end their wait.

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai

Manager: Jose Luis Sierra (CHL)

Foreign players
Mauro Diaz ARG, MID (FC Dallas – USA)
Jaime Ayovi ECU, ATT (Beijing Renhe – China)
Emiliano Vecchio ARG, MID (Santos – Brazil)
Henrique Luvvanor BRA, ATT (retained)

One of the clubs with a lot of history, Shabab Ahli enjoy a healthy rivalry with Al Ain. Post-merger before the start of last season, the club look to have found the stability needed to be among the genuine challengers for the title this year. Incoming Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra has drafted in a couple of new faces, including Mauro Diaz from FC Dallas and Jaime Ayovi from China.

Sharjah Club

Manager: Abdul Aziz Al Anbari (UAE)

Foreign players
Ryan Mendes CPV, MID (Kayserispor – Turkey)
Igor Coronado BRA, MID (Palermo – Italy)
Otabek Shukurov UZB, MID (Bunyodkor - Uzbekistan)
Welliton BRA, ATT (retained)

As champions of the inaugural edition in 1973-74, Sharjah have been one of the most successful clubs in UAE football. And despite having a record eight President’s Cup titles — the highest — The King are yet to add to their five league crowns. Their last success in the league may have come way back in 1995-96, but coach and former UAE player Abdul Aziz Al Anbari has shown good spirit in guiding a youthful team.

Al Wasl

Manager: Gustavo Quinteros (ARG)

Foreign players
Vinicius de Lima BRA, MID (Gremio – Brazil)
Caio Canedo Correa BRA, ATT (retained)
Fabio de Lima BRA, MID (retained)
Ronaldo Mendes BRA, MID (retained)

Last year was notably sturdy for The Cheetahs as they commenced the season as runaway leaders. But then came the combined onslaught of the Abu Dhabi duo of Al Wahda and Al Ain as Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s men wilted to end in third place. Al Wasl’s last success in the league came in 2006-07, and new coach Gustavo Quinteros will definitely be after an eighth league crown for the Zabeel outfit.

Al Wahda

Manager: Laurent Reghecampf (ROM)

Foreign players
Leonardo da Silva BRA, MID (Al Ahli – Saudi Arabia)
Sebastian Tagliabue ARG, ATT (retained)
Mourad Batna MOR, MID (retained)
Rim Chang-woo KOR, DEF (retained)

Following a close run for the title last year, coach Laurent Reghecampf seems to have got his season off to a bright start after winning the Arabian Gulf Super Cup in Cairo last week. And with Brazilian Leonardo da Silva Souza making a move from Saudi Arabia, Al Wahda’s extra bite in attack is bound to show.

Al Ain

Manager: Zoran Mamic (CRO)

Foreign players
Hussain Al Shahat EGY, MID (retained)
Marcus Berg SWE, ATT (retained)
Tsukasa Shiotani JPN, DEF (retained)
Caio Lucas BRA, MID (retained)

By far the most successful club in the UAE, Al Ain will be gunning for a record 14th crown. Last weekend’s tie-breaker loss to Al Wahda in the one-off Arabian Gulf Super Cup in Cairo may be a bit of a blur for Zoran Mamic, but the Croatian coach is sure his team can turn things around as they open their title defence on Friday.

 

— Compiled by Alaric Gomes, Chief Reporter & Ashley Hammond, Senior Reporter