x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Shalke and Eintracht Frankfurt in frame to play at opening of Al Ain’s new stadium

With Manchester City held to a draw by Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, officials at Al Ain are looking for another European side to be part of several days of ceremonies celebrating the opening of the city’s new Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Al Ain celebrate as they score the winning goal against Al Nasr at their Arabian Gulf League match. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Al Ain celebrate as they score the winning goal against Al Nasr at their Arabian Gulf League match. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // With Manchester City held to a draw by Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on the weekend, officials at Al Ain are looking for another European side to be part of several days of ceremonies celebrating the opening of the city’s new Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

A dream match between the English Premier League giants and Al Ain was the desired way to kick off the new stadium but City must stay home for an FA Cup third-round replay in Manchester on January 14 or 15, which leaves the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed-owned team out of consideration for the trip to the UAE.

Two top-flight German clubs, Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt, will be in Abu Dhabi on the weekend during the Bundesliga’s winter break to play a friendly at Al Wahda’s stadium and one of them could step in against Al Ain three days later.

“There’s nothing confirmed as of now,” said Khalid Mustafa, Al Ain’s public relations chief said yesterday. “I cannot comment on whom we will play. We’re looking for a team to play on the 14th; let’s see if we can find an opponent, but so far nothing.

“I cannot say if we are playing Schalke or Frankfurt, because we have not received any confirmations or agreements.”

Neither Schalke, who are in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League, nor Frankfurt could be reached for comment.

Hamburg and Dutch team Vitesse Arnhem are also in the UAE for winter training and could be candidates to play in Al Ain.

“It’s unfortunate that the Man City game got cancelled, but we are looking at a couple of teams to play but I cannot give any names because there is nothing to give,” said Abdullah Saleh, an Al Ain official.

The European and Club World Cup champions Bayern Munich are in Doha for their winter camp and would represent the most prominent club opposition possible.

sports@thenational.ae