A clash of Arabian Gulf League titans is guaranteed when unbeaten 2020/21 leaders Sharjah host 2019/20 pacesetters Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in a mouth-watering match-week eight meeting.
The King’s 100-per-cent start evaporated on Thursday when defender Abdullah Ghanem’s own goal sealed a surprise 1-1 draw at strugglers Khor Fakkan. Their imminent sixth-placed opponents, meanwhile, calmed the crisis which surrounded inexperienced coach Gerard Zaragoza with a 5-1 dismantling of sorry Ajman.
A seven-point gap still stands between these pre-season title favourites. But Monday’s visitors to Sharjah Stadium are convinced it will be further closed.
“We are playing a difficult match and we consider it one of the most important matches in the league,” said Zaragoza.
“Sharjah has a group of distinguished players and a good coach. We also have a good group of players and we are perfectly prepared for the match.”
Contrasting pressures are at play when bottom-placed Hatta welcome third-bottom Khor Fakkan.
Both sides are in dire need of an opening triumph to kick-start troubled campaigns. Tuesday’s visitors, however, have been pitted against six members of an interrupted 2019/20’s top seven and must now attack a run of, seemingly, gentler fixtures.
“We know that it is a difficult match and now we will start confrontations with the teams close to us in the table,” said Brazilian attacking midfielder Dodo.
“We will play the match with high concentration and with the same strength that we had when facing the leading teams.”
Sides moving in opposite directions clash when Bani Yas welcome Al Ain, second-placed Al Nasr must underline their credentials during a tough trip to Ittihad Kalba and new Al Wahda boss Vuk Rasovic is set to face former employers Al Dhafra for the first time.
Al Wasl will aim to grow positivity versus floundering Ajman and prolific UAE record-breaker Ali Mabkhout should be confident of adding to a tally of five goals in his last four top-flight matches when third-placed Al Jazira undertake the long trip to Fujairah.
MATCH-WEEK EIGHT FIXTURES
18:00 Ajman v Al Wasl
18:00 Fujairah v Al Jazira
21:00 Sharjah v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club
18:00 Al Wahda v Al Dhafra
18:00 Ittihad Kalba v Al Nasr
21:00 Bani Yas v Al Ain
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