The tussle for leadership will continue when the ninth round of the ADNOC Pro League resumes on Tuesday and Wednesday at various venues across the UAE.
There is a difference of five points between the top six teams with Al Ain clinging on to the top spot with 18 points followed by Al Jazira (16), Shabab Al Ahli (15), Al Wahda (14), Al Nasr and Sharjah with 13 points each.
Going into the ninth round, one can rightly expect some keen and close matches with Tuesday’s Dubai derby between next-door neighbours Al Wasl and Al Nasr, while former champions Sharjah host Al Wahda on November 3.
Four matches have been lined up on Tuesday with third-placed Shabab Al Ahli heading to a resurgent tenth-placed Ittihad Kalba, while leaders Al Ain play host to eleventh-placed Al Dhafra in the two early games.
In the late games, second-placed Al Jazira will make the long trip to ninth-placed Ajman, while Al Wasl will host Al Nasr to see who walks away with the bragging rights between neighbours.
Shabab Al Ahli and Al Ain played out an 1-1 draw last week, a result that saw Al Ain retain their position at the summit while Shabab Al Ahli dropped a place into third.
But the men from Dubai will have to be at their best against a tricky opponent in Ittihad Kalba who have shown remarkable progress in recent times – advancing to the quarter-finals of the Pro League Cup where they will meet Al Jazira – and then blanking the mighty Al Nasr 3-0 in Round 8 of the ADNOC Pro League.
Al Ain too will have to be at their sharpest at their best at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium despite their opponents Al Dhafra languishing in the second half of the standings in eleventh place with just seven points to show.
In late match action, Ajman will host defending champions Al Jazira at the Rashid bin Saeed Stadium at 8.15 pm, while much of the attention will be on the second match when Al Nasr will head to Zabeel for their derby against Al Wasl.
The Al Nasr fans have not exactly been pleased following their dip in form last week when they completely outplayed to cave in at home to Ittihad Kalba.
Al Wasl, on the other hand, will be on a high having snatched a last-gasp win through a Mohammed Al Akhberi winner during full-time injury period against Emirates Club.
The two teams have met in 24 matches, in which Al Nasr have prevailed in 11 matches, while Al Wasl have won six and the remaining seven have ended in draws. A total of 72 goals have been scored by the two teams.
Strong contests on Day Two
The second day will witness three fixtures with the early ones seeing 12th-placed Bani Yas up against cellar-placed Emirates Club, while 13th-placed Al Orooba host a resurgent and seventh-placed Khor Fakkan.
Bani Yas will be eager to make amends following a run of negative results including last week’s 2-0 loss to Al Jazira, while Emirates will be desperate to get their first-ever point of the season.
Al Orooba, who forced Sharjah to a 2-2 draw last week, will be looking at stepping things up against a well-organised Khor Fakkan at the Fujairah Stadium, who sit in a surprisingly strong seventh position with 12 points.
The ninth round will conclude with Sharjah hosting Al Wahda, who looked in good nick in their dominant 3-1 win against Al Dhafra last week.
Al Wahda were always in control last week with an astounding 78 per cent ball possession, and midway through the second half they were nearly assured of full points with goals from Omar Khrbin, skipper Ismail Matar and Fabio Martins.
The two teams met 22 times, with Al Wahda holding a slight edge with 12 wins, while Sharjah have won five times and another five have ended in draws.
During these meetings, the two teams have scored a total of 78 goals.