x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League vice chairman predicts tight tussle this season

Abdullah Nasser Al Juanibi is expecting the new season to be UAE football league's toughest yet, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

DUBAI // Abdullah Nasser Al Juanibi, the vice chairman of the Pro League Committee, is expecting the new season of the rebranded Arabian Gulf League to be the toughest yet.

The draw for the sixth season of the professional league, which kick offs with the Super Cup on August 30, was held Friday night with of the league's top stars such as Asamoah Gyan and Boris Kaabi, and the national team coach Mahdi Ali in attendance.

"This is the sixth year of [professional football] and it's supposed to be totally different," Al Junaibi said.

"The last season was part of our first five-year plan. From this year onward, you can expect differences at every level. The strategies and mentalities at the clubs will be different.

"We also have a new name for the league – the Arabian Gulf League. So you can expect a whole new look.

"I am expecting a really tough season and we can say that from now itself. It's evident in the pre-season itself.

"There have been some really good new signings … big-name foreign players and also transfers of local players. All of this leads us to have high expectations."

The return of Sharjah and Emirates to the top division also means there will be no minnow among the 14 teams in next season's Arabian Gulf League.

Kalba, Dibba Al Fujairah and Al Shaab had failed to match the top sides last season and the first two returned to Division One in the end.

"Last season, we saw the expectations from some clubs was really low, but they did really well," Al Junaibi said.

"So it is not fair to label any team as weak. But yes, the two clubs coming back [to the top division], were already in the Pro League. So that's why we have this assumption that we are going to have a really tough season."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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