Arabian Gulf League: Al Ain and Sharjah set for another classic contest

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(UAE Pro League).

Giants looking to cling on in the Arabian Gulf League’s title race meet on Friday when Al Ain host champions Sharjah.

Both sides come into the mouth-watering ‘Match of the Week’ at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium nine points off the searing pace set by leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club. They will, however, believe that a strong result in this tense third-placed v second-placed clash could revitalise their hopes, while defeat may prove terminal.

The two sides also played out, arguably, the game of the season to date in match-week three when the King roared back late on to win 3-2.

“The opponent is an organized team that relies on rapid counter attacks, but we play in our stadium and in front of our fans,” said boss Pedro Emanuel. “We will strive to acquire the ball to win and not receive any goal in the match.

“This is our first goal and we realise very well that we are required to show our strong personalities.”

Confidence should not be a problem for either side. Al Ain thrashed Al Wasl 5-0 last time out, while Sharjah snapped a ruinous four-match losing streak when they beat Ittihad Kalba 3-1.

In addition to the excitement on pitch, the UAE Pro League Arena FanZone at the Hazza will offer fun and competitive challenges. You can also indulge in delicious snacks from one of the premium food truck partners located at the stadium.

Meanwhile, burgeoning Argentine winger Fede Cartabia has vowed to repay his Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club team-mates ahead of Thursday’s visit of star-studded Al Jazira.

Cartabia, 27, struggled with injuries and adaption in the early weeks after a loan switch from Deportivo La Coruna. A tally of four goals from his last seven appearances, in all competitions, has evidenced the turnaround in form.

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This lethality will be required against Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout’s fourth-placed side, reeling from ‘Abu Dhabi Clasico’ defeat to Al Wahda.

“I thank my colleagues for helping me,” said Cartabia, who started in Sunday’s surprise goalless draw at struggling Fujairah that snapped a five-match, top-flight winning run. “They stood by my side.

“I did not adapt at the speed required at the beginning, now I enjoy the performances that I offer and I hope to do my best for the team.”

Boss Jorge Da Silva is convinced his raft of new foreigners will “make the difference” for relegation-threatened Ittihad Kalba, starting with Thursday’s visit of Hatta.

Hungary winger Balazs Dzsudzsak, ex-Barcelona defender Henrique and Jordan flyer Yaseen Al Bakhit have all made way for on-loan Sharjah striker Ricardo Gomes, Pohang Steelers winger Wanderson and Vitesse Arnhem attacker Navarone Foor. These new additions must engineer a charge up the standings from 11th – albeit with a game in hand.

“I have great confidence in the new players,” said Da Silva, who faces a 13th-placed opponent who snapped a seven-match losing streak last week with a dramatic 1-1 draw against Khor Fakkan. “They are highly skilled and will represent a strong plus.

“They will make the difference over the coming period.”

Elsewhere on Thursday, off-form Al Dhafra and Al Nasr clash in the Western Region. Local pride will then be on the line when resurgent Al Wahda – who’ve won their last four games – host Bani Yas, themselves on a three-game winning streak.

A ‘relegation six-pointer’ will follow on Friday when promoted Khor Fakkan host Madjid Bougherra’s Fujairah, while Wasl must rebound from their Al Ain humiliation against struggling Ajman.

Throughout the season, organisers of the UAE Pro League are giving back to the fans – and this round’s matches are no different. There will be a raffle at the end of the first half of each contest, with smartphones, tablets and smart watches being gifted to the winners after the final whistle.

Meanwhile, lucky supporters at select games will get their hands on one of the 30 brand-new Audi A3 cars that will have been raffled out to loyal AGL supporters throughout this season.

In order to be eligible for future raffles, fans must register and purchase tickets through the official ticketing platform at

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