x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Pro League: Nasr and Shabab see their chance to catch up

Al Nasr and Al Shabab are looking at catching Baniyas or Al Jazira and possibly qualify for Asian Champions League play.

Al Shabab's coach Marcos Paqueta, centre, knows his side has a few chances at Asian Champions League play next season.
Al Shabab's coach Marcos Paqueta, centre, knows his side has a few chances at Asian Champions League play next season.

With the title already in the safe hands of Al Ain, the rest of the sides at the top of the Pro League table are left fighting for Asian Champions League (ACL) spots.

The situation is muddied by the fact that it is not yet known how many slots UAE clubs will receive for the 2014 competition.

This season, the UAE got two automatic spots and two qualifying births, and clubs are hoping that allocation will remain the same when the Asian Football Confederation makes its evaluation in November.

Al Ain, as the league champions, have already booked their passage in the 2014 ACL, and they will be joined by the winner of the President's Cup between Al Ahli and Al Shabab.

If Ahli - who are also second in the table on 48 points and likely to finish there - win the Cup, the third- and fourth-placed teams in the league will get ACL qualifying slots. Those places are currently held by Baniyas (44 points) and Al Jazira (43 points), and their league game has been re-arranged for Monday given the former's participation in the Gulf Clubs Championship last night.

That gives the chasing pack of Al Nasr and Al Shabab - both on 39 points - the chance to close the gap tonight.

Marcos Paqueta, the Shabab coach, is faced with a selection dilemma when they travel to play Dubai. The Brazilian may have to rotate his players with the three games in a week coming up.

Shabab went down 4-2 against Esteghlal of Iran in the home leg of the last 16 of the ACL and travel for the away game next Wednesday. They then host Al Shaab on May 25.

Walter Zenga's Nasr should have an easier task of picking up three points when they host already-relegated Kalba

 

apassela@thenational.ae

 

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