x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Teams get ready for the Pro League finish line

The league's most devoted fans will look to Asamoah Gyan, Ignacio Scocco and Cosmin Olaroiu to carry them across the line. Sports round-up audio

Al Ain, with Asamoah Gyan, centre, are aiming for their 10th league title.
Al Ain, with Asamoah Gyan, centre, are aiming for their 10th league title.

A seven-day break in competition among Pro League sides, one of the longest such gaps of the season, begins today. The pause affords us an opportunity to survey the landscape ahead of the final third of the season, which includes the opening stages of the Asian Champions League.

All 12 clubs are playing for something. One is playing for everything. Let's look at each, in order of their standing before the late game last night.

Al Ain: Front-runners for their 10th league title. The league's most devoted fans will look to Asamoah Gyan, Ignacio Scocco and Cosmin Olaroiu to carry them across the line. Also on pace to reach the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.

Al Nasr: The quest for the first league championship since 1986 is Topic A, B and C here, but Walter Zenga's team also in the Asian Champions League, beginning on March 7, away to Sepahan.

Al Jazira: The busiest club in the nation are still alive for everything. Jazira still could win the league, though their chances are fading, and have reached the semi-finals of both the President's and Etisalat Cup. They also take another whack at the Champions League, beginning on March 6 at the Uzbek side Nasaf Qarshi.

Al Shabab: Perhaps too many clubs to climb over for their first league title since 2008, but the Etisalat Cup holders are close to securing a semi-finals berth in that tournament. They play for a spot in the Champions League group stage when they host Neftchi of Uzbekistan in a one-off game on Saturday.

Al Wasl: Diego Maradona's side will not win the league, nor will they be relegated, but they could gain a 2013 Champions League berth with a top-four finish and still have a chance at the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.

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Al Wahda: The 2010 league champions seem to be missing 10 players for every match, but they are in the President's Cup semi-finals and could gain a Champions League berth with a strong league finish. The return of the injured expatriates Magrao and Mohammed Shaibah would be helpful.

Al Ahli: The erratic Dubai side have perhaps the least to play for - they will not win the league, they will not be relegated, and the climb to a Champions League berth would require a surge of quality they have yet to show. The Etisalat Cup semi-finals are in reach; there's that.

Baniyas: It seems a long time since the heady days of "we signed David Trezeguet!" Perhaps yesterday's win over Jazira will be turning point in an uneven season. Having so many players in the Olympic team is good for the country, not so good for the club. They are in the President's Cup semi-finals and begin their Champions League campaign with a home game on March 6.

Ajman: We now enter the "rightfully worried about relegation" zone. Ajman started well but have been struggling for results since November. They have a shot at the Etisalat Cup semi-finals, but they will be thinking mostly about staying up in the league.

Emirates: A recent surge has taken the little Ras Al Khaimah side just outside the drop zone. Staying up for the first time since 2007 is their priority.

Sharjah: The goal for The King is to avoid a nightmare, and that would mean making sure they aren't the first "big" club in UAE history to be relegated. Staying up, and winning the President's Cup (they are in the semi-finals) would take much of the edge off a painful season.

Dubai: The least decorated of the city's five sides could reach the Etisalat Cup semi-finals, but their only real goal is avoiding the drop. If only all their games were against Wasl; Dubai have won all three encounters, by an aggregate 10-1, with Maradona's side. However, they have only two victories and four draws in 20 games in all competitions against the other 10 top-flight clubs.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae