John McAuley previews the quarter-final round of the President's Cup, which features Al Ain against Al Wasl in the premier pairing of the last eight.
President’s Cup quarter-final previews: Al Ain and Al Wasl in heavyweight clash
The President’s Cup returns to action on Thursday and Friday, with eight sides battling it out for a place in the semi-finals. Here is the quarter-final breakdown:
Al Ain v Al Wasl
Plenty of intrigue surrounds Thursday’s match at Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, with Al Ain needing to bounce back from relinquishing their Arabian Gulf League title to Al Ahli. Still involved in the Asian Champions League, they need to win to help appease their supporters. Al Wasl, meanwhile, will have caretaker manager Salem Abdelrahman in charge after Gabriel Calderon was officially given a “two-day vacation”. The Argentine’s departure is expected to be confirmed by the club not long after the game.
Al Jazira v Sharjah
Two clubs that have just put to bed wretched league campaigns could end the season with silverware. Al Jazira are slight favourites considering they have turned around their form – in the AGL at least – as they try to win the cup for the third time. In contrast, Sharjah are President’s Cup specialists, lifting the trophy a joint-record eight times. Their last success, though, was 2003. The match takes place Thursday at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
Al Ahli v Al Shaab
The 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League’s top team meets its bottom at the Sharjah Stadium on Friday, with Al Ahli eying a league and cup double. The Dubai club, eight-time President’s Cup winners, were beaten finalists the past two years, but should have little problem against Shaab, who were relegated from the top flight with seven points - the lowest points tally in the professional era. What is worse, Ahli dismantled Shaab 5-0 in the league finale on Sunday.
Emirates v Baniyas
Perhaps the least attractive of the quarter-final ties, Friday’s clash at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium still provides each club with a real chance of keeping alive their cup dream. Emirates should be buoyed by narrowly escaping relegation on Sunday, while Baniyas will want to put behind them another underwhelming league campaign. They have each tasted President’s Cup success once before, although Baniyas’s only victory was 1992. Emirates, on the other hand, landed a shock win six years ago.
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