After a 12-day pause for the international break, the Arabian Gulf League action resumes on Friday, which will see eight teams take the field as part of matchweek 6 fixtures.
The first two games will be held at 6pm when Al Wasl host Al Ain and Bani Yas welcome Ittihad Kalba at home. Two other games will be played at 9pm with Fujairah facing Hatta and Sharjah clashing with Al Nasr.
Al Ain will be looking to make up for their elimination from the Arabian Gulf Cup at the hands of Khorfakkan last week, when they clash with Al Wasl at Zabeel Stadium. The Boss currently sit in sixth place on eight points, two above ninth-placed Al Wasl, who succumbed to three league defeats so far.
The 22 league clashes between Al Wasl and Al Ain saw the former earn two wins only, while succumbing to 15 defeats and five draws. They also failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 16 league games with the Boss.
Al Ain coach Pedro Emanuel believes his team needs to be fully focused on their game against Al Wasl. “Our target is to score goals and keep a clean sheet to get the three points, while respecting our opponents,” he said.
“We acknowledge the strengths of our opponent and that they have good group of offensive players,” he added.
On the other hand, Al Wasl coach Salem Rabee confirmed his side’s readiness for their game against Al Ain. “We focus on ourselves only and we aren’t concerned with Al Ain’s season and their absences,” he explained.
“Al Ain remain a big team and they managed to overcome similar challenges before,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bani Yas and Kalba enter the game at Bani Yas Stadium on the back of their recent qualification to the Arabian Gulf Cup quarter final. Despite their inconsistent league performances, the Sky Blues are third on 10 points. Kalba, however, have six points only and sit in 10th place after collecting their first league win over Fujairah in matchweek 5.
The Boss enter the game with a slight advantage over Kalba, as they won all their five previous home clashes with the Tigers in the league, while netting 13 goals. Meanwhile, Kalba earned one win only in their past 22 games with Abu Dhabi-based teams in the league (16 defeats – five draws).
Bani Yas coach Daniel Isaila expects a tough clash with Ittihad Kalba on Friday. “Kalba’s performance improved and they put in strong performances in their recent matches after their tough start to the season and they also qualified to the Arabian Gulf Cup quarters,” he said.
“We are looking to match our beginning of the season performances. We want to return to winning ways, and we hope the Kalba game will be the starting point,” he added.
His counterpart at Ittihad Kalba, coach Jorge da Silva, believes that their win against Fujairah and their qualification to the Arabian Gulf Cup quarters will motivate the team to maintain their strong performances against Bani Yas.
“Bani Yas game won’t be an easy one. They are a strong team, especially offensively. Except for the past two games, they had a strong start to the league season. I have confidence in all our players, and we expect to maintain our performances,” he added.
The most anticipated match of the day will see leaders Sharjah host runners-up Al Nasr at 9pm. The King will be looking to maintain their perfect start to the season that saw them collect 15 points after five wins, while scoring 14 goals - the highest in the league so far. They will face a tough task when they clash with Al Nasr, who have 13 points and hold the best defensive record in the league so far after conceding one goal only.
Sharjah will be looking to keep the momentum alive as they won their past three league games against Al Nasr, after failing to earn wins in 12 consecutive matches against the Blues.
According to Al Nasr coach Krunoslav Jurčić, the Blues' clash with Sharjah is considered a special derby game. “It will be strong game, and we understand that Sharjah are one of the strongest teams in the league,” he added.
“We are ready to face Sharjah and the atmosphere in the training is positive. All players are ready for the game and we have what it takes to face anyone,” he added.
Sharjah coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari is also looking forward to the game with Al Nasr. “They are one of the title favorites as they have a good group of players and a good technical team. We are looking to earn the three points and maintain our position on top,” he added.
At the same time, Fujairah will be playing with Hatta at a bottom of the table clash, which will mark the first ever league game between the two sides. Both sides are yet to claim their first win of the season and have one point only. Hatta linger at the bottom of the standings and currently have the weakest defense in the league after conceding 14 goals. Meanwhile, Fujairah are 12th on goal difference and will be looking to keep the momentum alive after eliminating Ajman to qualify to the Arabian Gulf Cup quarters.
Fujairah coach Goran Tufegdžić said his team can’t afford a bad result against Hatta. The Serbian coach said, “we’re only looking to get a win. We can consider it as a derby game.”
“We studied Hatta well and I hope that Fujairah players follow every detail of the game plan to get a positive result,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hatta coach Christos Kontis said that the situation and position of both teams in the standings make the game more difficult. “Both teams collected one point only and are at the bottom of the table,” he said.
“It will be a real test for both sides, and it’ll reveal Hatta’s strengths and readiness for the season. We hope to maintain the strong performance we put in against Bani Yas,” he explained.