Arabian Gulf League football is finally back as the 2020/21 season is set to kick off on Friday, with the first matchweek being held under the slogan “Commit to win” in a call to all football fans to continue adhering to precautionary measures in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Four matches are scheduled for the opening day of the competition as Al Wahda host Hatta, Al Dhafra face Ajman, Fujairah clash with Sharjah and Al Wasl face Bani Yas. The action resumes on Saturday as Al Ain host Khorfakkan, Ittihad Kalba play with Shabab Al Ahli and Al Nasr face Al Jazira.
The first match will see Al Wahda clash with Hatta at Al Nahyan Stadium at 6:15 pm.
Al Wahda enter the game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl in the first leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup playoff round. Their opponents Hatta also fell to a 2-0 defeat at home against Bani Yas in the cup last week.
Al Wahda hold an impressive record in the opening matchweek of the past two seasons, as they defeated Ittihad Kalba 6-2 in the 2018-2019 season opener and earned a 5-0 win over Dibba in the opening game of the 2017-2018 season.
The two sides played out a goalless draw when they clashed in the opening matchweek of the 2016-2017 season.
Hatta haven’t defeated Al Wahda during their past four encounters in the Arabian Gulf League, as three of these games ended in favour of Al Wahda and one ended in a draw.
At the same time, Al Dhafra will face Ajman at Hamdan Bin Zayed Stadium.
Al Dhafra have recently appointed Serbian coach Aleksandar Veselinović, while the guests enjoy stability with Egyptian coach Ayman Al Ramadi, who remain at the helm for the fourth consecutive season.
In their past eight clashes in the Arabian Gulf League, Al Dhafra failed to beat Ajman as five games ended in a draw, while the Oranges earned three wins.
Later, Al Wasl host Bani Yas at Zabeel Stadium at 9pm. The hosts hope to maintain their positive start to the season after beating Al Wahda in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
The Sky Blues also will be looking to keep up the momentum alive after earning a 2-0 win away from home over Hatta in the Arabian Gulf Cup. Bani Yas are currently led by Romanian coach Daniel Isaila, who used to manage Saudi side Al Hazm before getting sacked in January.
When they faced off in the opening matchweek of the 2009-2010 season, the two sides played out a 3-3 draw.
At the same time, Fujairah will be looking to earn a positive result at home when they host reigning champions Sharjah.
The home side have most recently defeated Ajman 1-0 in the Arabian Gulf Cup. Meanwhile, Arabian Gulf League titleholders Sharjah did not participate in the first round of the competition and qualified to the quarter finals directly.
Fujairah have a new coach at the helm, as they hired Serbian manager Goran Tufegdžić, while the King are led by Emirati coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari.
Sharjah hold a below par record in the opening matchweeks of the competition, as they won once, drew once, and lost three times in the past five seasons.
Al Ain will host Khorfakkan at Hazza Bin Zayed stadium at 6:15pm, in a repeat of last week’s Arabian Gulf Cup clash, which ended in a surprise 4-2 win for Khorfakkan.
The Boss, headed by Portuguese coach Pedro Emanuel, will be looking to start off the league competition on the right foot and grab a positive result following their disappointing defeat to Khorfakkan last week.
Meanwhile, Khorfakkan, led by former Al Nasr manager Caio Zanardi, will be looking to keep the momentum alive and earn another positive result over Al Ain.
At the same time, Ittihad Kalba will be playing at home against Shabab Al Ahli.
The Tigers had a good start to the season, as they beat Al Jazira 2-1 in the first round of the Arabian Gulf Cup, thanks to Peniel Mlapa’s double.
On the other hand, Shabab Al Ahli, led by Spaniard Gerard Zaragoza, played out a 1-1 draw with Al Dhafra in the same competition.
The two sides met 10 times in the league before, with six matches ending in favour of Shabab Al Ahli, and four games ending in a draw.
The final match of the week will see Al Nasr clash with Al Jazira at Al Maktoum Stadium at 9pm.
This will mark Al Nasr’s first official game of the season as they didn’t take part in the Arabian Gulf Cup playoff round and qualified directly to the quarter final.
On the other hand, the Pride of Abu Dhabi, who opted to have two foreigners only within their ranks, fell to a 2-1 defeat to Kalba in the first leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup playoff round.