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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Manchester City will not play in Al Ain

English Premier League side have rematch against Blackburn Rovers and will not be avaiable for friendly against UAE football club.
The state-of-the-art Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain has a capacity of 25,000. Courtesy of Hazza bin Zayed Stadium
The state-of-the-art Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain has a capacity of 25,000. Courtesy of Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

AL AIN // A friendly match later this month between Al Ain and a prominent club side is being mooted by organisers of the Big Kick Off, a three-day event to be held next week to celebrate the opening of the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.

The initial plan, though never confirmed by organisers, had Manchester City playing Al Ain at the 25,000-capacity, state-of-the-art stadium on Tuesday. However, City were held 1-1 by Blackburn in an English FA Cup match last week and a replay with Rovers is Wednesday, which takes the 2012 Premier League champions out of the running for a trip to the UAE.

After the Blackburn match, the City coach Manuel Pellegrini said: “We were going to be travelling to Abu Dhabi and having a friendly match there. Now we are going to play against Rovers at home.”

Two top-flight German clubs, Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt, are in Abu Dhabi ahead of meeting in a friendly at Al Wahda’s stadium on Saturday, but it is a near certainty no match will be played in Al Ain’s new stadium in the coming week.

But there is hope for an inaugural match later in the month, and confirmation of that could be made this week.

Al Ain have an Arabian Gulf League match on Thursday night against Al Shabab, but they will play the game in their historic Al Qattara stadium.

Al Ain’s next home league match is against Al Dhafra, on January 24, six days after a league road match.

Thousands of families from across the country are expected to celebrate the opening of the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, one of the Middle East’s most sophisticated sporting arenas, starting on January 16. Five themed zones will be set up, each designed to encourage healthy lifestyles.

The venue took years of planning but has been built in just 17 months.

sports@thenational.ae