x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pro League: Al Ain to begin title defence against Al Ahli

The start of the 2012/13 campaign will see the title holders play host to Al Ahli on September 23, while Al Wasl start life without Diego Maradona with a visit from Al Wahda.

Al AIn players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Etisalat Pro League
Al AIn players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Etisalat Pro League

ABU DHABI // Al Ain will begin their title defence of the Pro League with a tough home clash against Al Ahli on September 23.

Al Jazira, the President's Cup winners, begin their 2012/2013 campaign against Al Nasr at the Mohammed bin Zayed stadium, while Al Wahda travel to Dubai for a meeting with Al Wasl at the Zabeel stadium in the other standout fixtures from the draw.

Ahli have the toughest start - after a strong away first game, Quique Sanchez Flores' men face Jazira, Al Wasl and Al Shabab before a meeting with the promoted Kalba in the fifth round.

Hamad Al Ameri, a member of the Al Ain club's board of directors, said facing a strong opponent in the opener at home would generate a lot of interest among the fans.

"It is interesting isn't it, when the spotlight is on us in the opening weekend of the Pro League," he said.

"The league has grown in stature every passing year and this time we can expect it to be more competitive now that most clubs have retained their managers and foreign players."

The draw for the revamped Etisalat Cup preceded the league, and with the increase in teams competing, from 12 to 14, the format changed from two groups of six to three groups, two of which consists of five teams.

The top three teams from each group and the best second placed team will advance to the last four stage.

Ahli, the defending champions, were automatically placed in Group C while Al Ain, the league champions, and Jazira, the President's Cup champions, were slated in Group A and B respectively s the other seeded teams.

The draw for the semi-final was also made with the runners-up playing the winner of Group C and winner of Group A playing the winner of Group B.