Dubai: The intensity of title contenders is expected to further intensify with leaders Sharjah travelling to meet Al Wahda while Al Ain host Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in Round 15 of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL), this weekend.
Al Wahda will host leaders and defending champions Sharjah in Thursday’s late match, while the fixture between 13-time champions Al Ain and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will round off action for the weekend in the Garden City.
Sharjah head the league standings with 35 points, even as a clutter of teams chase them down. The closest in the challenge is Al Jazira with 30 points, while Bani Yas (26), Al Ain (24) and Al Nasr (24) round up the top five spots so far. However, former champions Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (22), Al Wahda (22) and Al Wasl (20) are all within striking distance in the next three spots.
Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari is aware of the crucial nature of the next few rounds if Sharjah is to successfully defend its title.
“We respect Al Wahda as one of the traditional challengers for titles. In the past, the encounters between our two teams have always been entertaining to football fans, and this time will be no different,” he said.
Al Anbari cautioned his players not to drop their guard like they did in their last match as visiting Fujairah scored two quick goals to ultimately go down 2-3. “These are basics of any sport and this was certainly not a good thing to happen. We lost the ball easily in the part of the match and allowed Fujairah to attempt a comeback. We need to be more focused and disciplined especially while defending. If it was against one of the stronger sides, we could have even lost out on points,” he said.
The Sharjah coach further reminded his team that Al Wahda have strengthened their squad heading into the second leg of the AGL. “They had injuries, but now they’ve been with all four professionals and a completely different squad that can compete against the best. Their local players are as good as the foreign professionals, so we can no longer take things lightly,” Al Anbari said.
“But we believe we have the ability to maintain our momentum and spirit and return with all three points from Abu Dhabi on Thursday.”
In other matches, Bani Yas will host Fujairah and Khor Fakkan will make the trip to Dubai to play Al Nasr in the two early matches on Thursday. On Friday, Al Jazira will make the short trip next door to face Al Dhafra, while Al Wasl host bottom-placed Hatta in the early games, before Kalba entertain Ajman in the second late match.
Bani Yas v Fujairah, 5.30pm
Al Nasr v Khor Fakkan, 5.30pm
Al Wahda v Sharjah, 8.15pm
Al Dhafra v Al Jazira, 5.30pm
Al Wasl v Hatta, 5.30pm
Kalba v Ajman, 8.15pm
Al Ain v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, 8.15pm