The pressure is on for embattled Al Ain coach Pedro Emanuel when his charges visit leaders Sharjah in the Arabian Gulf League.
The depleted Boss were battered 4-1 by resurgent Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in match-week 15, a result which pushed them down to a distant sixth and intensified debate about the former Porto defender’s future. Hope will abound about a possible, belated, debut for headline winter addition Shoya Nakajima.
Saturday’s opponents witnessed momentum checked last weekend with a 1-1 draw at Al Wahda and will be determined to get back to winning ways now their advantage has been cut to three points.
Fifth-placed Shabab Al Ahli’s cause was boosted in mid-week by the addition of 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman on a free transfer. But the celebrated 29-year-old is not expected to be fit to continue their seven-match winning run, in all competitions, at seventh-placed Wahda.
The day’s other games contain a basement clash between Hatta and Ajman, plus third-placed Bani Yas travelling to mid-table Khor Fakkan.
A Bur Dubai derby between Al Nasr and Al Wasl leads the way on Sunday, UAE icon Ali Mabkhout is fresh off a hat-trick for the trip to Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finalists Ittihad Kalba and second-bottom Fujairah could escape the relegation zone with victory against an Al Dhafra who’ll be without suspended returning club legend Makhete Diop and goalkeeper Khalid Al Senani.
MATCH-WEEK 16 FIXTURES
17:30 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club v Al Wahda
17:30 Khor Fakkan v Bani Yas
20:15 Hatta v Ajman
20:15 Sharjah v Al Ain
17:30 Ittihad Kalba v Al Jazira
17:30 Fujairah v Al Dhafra
20:15 Al Nasr v Al Wasl