x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sidelined again, Cannavaro may have played his last game this season

Al Ahli are without defender due to knee injury for tonight's game against Al Nasr.

Fabio Cannavaro, Al Ahli's expensive Italian import, will again be missing through injury this evening and there are fears that the World Cup winner could have played his last game this season.

The former Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid defender has not featured for the Dubai club since the 2-2 draw against Kalba on March 24, although he was an unused substitute against Al Ain last week.

Cannavaro, 37, who reportedly could earn as much as Dh22.5 million this season, has been ruled out of tonight's match with Al Nasr with the same knee problem and is unlikely to feature in the club's remaining four games.

The Fifa World Player of the Year in 2006 is known to have been surprised by the pace of the league and given his injury record this season and the fact that he turns 38 in September, there must be doubts as to whether he will see out the remaining year of his two-year contract.

He had appeared in 23 of a possible 24 league and Etisalat Cup matches for Ahli before sustaining his injury in March. He has missed three league matches since.

Cannavaro's absence tonight denies him a reunion, on the field at least, with Walter Zenga, the defender's compatriot, who coaches Al Nasr.

"Cannavaro is my neighbour because we live practically together in the same area," Zenga said. "We meet all the time, twice a week. He is a big friend of mine."

Before discovering Cannavaro would miss the game, Zenga said: "Our next game is against his team, so for 90 minutes we don't know each other. But then we are going to take dinner together, 200 per cent."

Ahli have won only one league game in 2011; they have five points from seven matches since the start of the year. They were joint third in the table with 17 points from 10 games in December. Now they are level with Nasr in seventh.

Also tonight, Kalba renew their battle to escape relegation when they are home to Al Shabab. The Sharjah side have amassed 13 of their 14 points in the nine matches since Jorvan Vieira took over as coach, in December, but they are four now points behind Al Ain.

Shabab, the Etisalat Cup champions, have been in form in recent months, and they still harbour hopes of climbing past Baniyas and into second place.

In the other early game, defending champions Al Wahda are home to Sharjah. Each are on 23 points and retain the hope of climbing to fourth and gaining an Asian Champions League berth.

Al Jazira can clinch their first league championship tomorrow when they travel to play Al Wasl. They could be champions even before kick off if Baniyas lose at home to Dubai in a game that starts three hours earlier.

* Additional reporting by Ahmed Rizvi