Al Jazira and Mirko Vucinic, centre, have their task cut out to win the Arabian Gulf League title this season. Ravindranath K / The National
Al Jazira and Mirko Vucinic, centre, have their task cut out to win the Arabian Gulf League title this season. Ravindranath K / The National

Abu Dhabi derby crucial game for Al Jazira – AGL talking points



Defining derby for Al Jazira

For some time, the title has seemed destined for the Garden City. Al Ain settled into the top spot two months ago, with the AGL’s most talented squad looking set to confirm their superiority with a third championship in four seasons.

Five matches from the finish line, they hold a four-point lead over Al Jazira and on Saturday travel to an Al Nasr side with two wins in 10 rounds. Al Ain will expect to depart with the points. That places even more pressure on Jazira, who make the short trip across Abu Dhabi to fourth-place Al Wahda.

Eric Gerets’s men cannot afford to slip up, but they should be confident of maintaining their challenge as Wahda have managed a solitary victory in five league matches since Sami Al Jaber took the reins. Anything less than a win and Jazira’s faint title hopes will be extinguished.

Al Wasl’s Fabio focus

The Dubai club have been the league’s form side, securing four victories and two draws from six matches to become prime contenders for a top-four place. They sit one spot and three points back.

Yet the feel-good factor enveloping the Zabeel Stadium received a jolt this week when Sharjah officially questioned the nationality of Fabio Lima, the Brazil-born playmaker who is registered as an Uzbek and thus qualifies as Wasl’s Asian player.

The club maintain Lima’s legitimacy, but it has cast a shadow over preparations for Sunday’s crucial clash with third-placed Al Shabab.

Coach Gabriel Calderon says it will not affect his squad, but Lima has been integral to their rise and, understandably, his focus might be elsewhere. Retaining the shine on the pitch has been made more difficult given the cloud that looms off it. Concentration is key.

Al Ahli’s top-four push

Tuesday night's Asian Champions League victory could be as restorative as it was important. The 1-0 win over Nasaf Qarshi in Uzbekistan hoisted Ahli off the bottom of their group and into second place, breathing fresh life into their knockout-stage ambitions.

It could also spark a disappointing domestic challenge. Last week’s league defeat to Al Ain officially ended hopes of a successful title defence – with 15 points up for grabs, the champions lie 19 points behind the leaders – but much remains at stake.

Ahli languish in seventh, but they sit six points from fourth and retain designs on a top-four finish. Admittedly, there is plenty to do, and their outlook is bleak, yet Ahli’s squad still boast the capacity to take full points from their remaining matches.

That will be tested on Sunday at Emirates.

D-Day for Ajman

The writing has been on the wall for much of the campaign, but Ajman’s relegation to Division One could be confirmed on Saturday. The league’s second-worst team host the club immediately above them knowing that victory for Sharjah would consign them to the second tier next term. Paulo Bonamigo’s side are nine points ahead and seem sure to move another three clear, which would condemn Ajman to the drop by dint of the clubs’ head-to-head record.

It would mark the conclusion to a sorry season for Ajman, who have flitted between managers and floundered for form. In 21 rounds, they have won twice. It is simply not good enough.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @NatSportUAE

UAE central contracts

Full time contracts

Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Usman, Chirag Suri, Mohammed Boota, Sultan Ahmed, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Waheed Ahmed, Zawar Farid

Part time contracts

Aryan Lakra, Ansh Tandon, Karthik Meiyappan, Rahul Bhatia, Alishan Sharafu, CP Rizwaan, Basil Hameed, Matiullah, Fahad Nawaz, Sanchit Sharma

57 Seconds

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman, Greg Germann, Lovie Simone
Rating: 2/5

THREE POSSIBLE REPLACEMENTS

Khalfan Mubarak
The Al Jazira playmaker has for some time been tipped for stardom within UAE football, with Quique Sanchez Flores, his former manager at Al Ahli, once labelling him a “genius”. He was only 17. Now 23, Mubarak has developed into a crafty supplier of chances, evidenced by his seven assists in six league matches this season. Still to display his class at international level, though.

Rayan Yaslam
The Al Ain attacking midfielder has become a regular starter for his club in the past 15 months. Yaslam, 23, is a tidy and intelligent player, technically proficient with an eye for opening up defences. Developed while alongside Abdulrahman in the Al Ain first-team and has progressed well since manager Zoran Mamic’s arrival. However, made his UAE debut only last December.

Ismail Matar
The Al Wahda forward is revered by teammates and a key contributor to the squad. At 35, his best days are behind him, but Matar is incredibly experienced and an example to his colleagues. His ability to cope with tournament football is a concern, though, despite Matar beginning the season well. Not a like-for-like replacement, although the system could be adjusted to suit.

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THE BIO: Martin Van Almsick

Hometown: Cologne, Germany

Family: Wife Hanan Ahmed and their three children, Marrah (23), Tibijan (19), Amon (13)

Favourite dessert: Umm Ali with dark camel milk chocolate flakes

Favourite hobby: Football

Breakfast routine: a tall glass of camel milk

MATCH INFO

Tottenham 4 (Alli 51', Kane 50', 77'. Aurier 73')

Olympiakos 2 (El-Arabi 06', Semedo')

Company profile

Company name: amana
Started: 2010
Founders: Karim Farra and Ziad Aboujeb
Based: UAE
Regulator: DFSA
Sector: Financial services
Current number of staff: 85
Investment stage: Self-funded

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The Flights

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Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Results

5.30pm Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (Turf) 1,400m

Winner Spirit Of Light, Clement Lecoeuvre (jockey), Erwan Charpy (trainer)

6.05pm Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (Dirt) 1,900m

Winner Bright Start, Pat Cosgrave, Saeed bin Suroor

6.40pm Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (D) 2,000m

Winner Twelfthofneverland, Nathan Crosse, Satish Seemar

7.15pm Handicap (TB) Dh85,000 (T) 1,600m

Winner Imperial Empire, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

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Winner Record Man, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

8.25pm Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (D) 1,600m

Winner Celtic Prince, Fabrice Veron, Rashed Bouresly

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
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Investment stage: Pre-series B
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MATCH INFO

Day 1 at Mount Maunganui

England 241-4

Denly 74, Stokes 67 not out, De Grandhomme 2-28

New Zealand 

Yet to bat

TWISTERS

Director:+Lee+Isaac+Chung

Starring:+Glen+Powell,+Daisy+Edgar-Jones,+Anthony+Ramos

Rating:+2.5/5

The Old Slave and the Mastiff

Patrick Chamoiseau

Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale

MATCH INFO

Real Madrid 2 (Benzema 13', Kroos 28')
Barcelona 1 (Mingueza 60')

Red card: Casemiro (Real Madrid)

Teams

Punjabi Legends Owners: Inzamam-ul-Haq and Intizar-ul-Haq; Key player: Misbah-ul-Haq

Pakhtoons Owners: Habib Khan and Tajuddin Khan; Key player: Shahid Afridi

Maratha Arabians Owners: Sohail Khan, Ali Tumbi, Parvez Khan; Key player: Virender Sehwag

Bangla Tigers Owners: Shirajuddin Alam, Yasin Choudhary, Neelesh Bhatnager, Anis and Rizwan Sajan; Key player: TBC

Colombo Lions Owners: Sri Lanka Cricket; Key player: TBC

Kerala Kings Owners: Hussain Adam Ali and Shafi Ul Mulk; Key player: Eoin Morgan

Venue Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Format 10 overs per side, matches last for 90 minutes

Timeline October 25: Around 120 players to be entered into a draft, to be held in Dubai; December 21: Matches start; December 24: Finals

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