Next week’s vital clash between front-runners Al Ain and Shabab Al Ahli is raising the tempo as the UAE ADNOC Pro League progresses into the eighth round of play.
There are at least five different reasons why a genuine fan can eagerly look forward to the top of the table clash between these two giants of UAE football, next weekend.
The first and foremost reason why everyone can look forward to this encounter is the rich history of these two teams during the past few years of the UAE Pro League.
The two teams have a total of seven titles between themselves ever since the league turned professional from the 2008-’09 season.
However, Al Ain hold the edge with four titles (2011-’12, 2012-’13, 2014-’15, 2017-’18), while Shabab Al Ahli so far have three crowns starting off with the inaugural year followed by two more in 2013-’14 and 2015-’16.
Al Ain have claimed record high 13 league titles and finished as runners-up on eight occasions since the first season of the competition in 1973-1974.
Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli are next best with seven titles each, while Sharjah are in fourth with six crowns.
The second reason to look expectantly towards next Friday’s clash is the fact that these two teams are currently in a tussle for the top spot.
In addition, previous meetings between these two teams have always been closely contested and well fought, even though the two have not been able to gauge each other’s strengths during the past couple of seasons.
The third reason for the anticipation is due to the tactical acumen of the two coaches involved - Ukrainian Sergei Rebrov and the UAE’s own Mahdi Ali.
After seven rounds of the league, Rebrov has maintained a clean, unbeaten record, while Mahdi Ali has managed to keep his young squad motivated with a few crucial wins, especially the ones against Sharjah and Al Jazira.
Another reason to look forward to this match is that some of the best names from UAE football and beyond are housed in the two teams. One can safely expect a closely-contested and technically high-quality match with the result foreseen to be decided by the minor errors committed by either side.
The fifth and final reason for the excitement will be the expected fans’ attendance at Dubai’s Rashid Stadium, that now can host a number of spectators up to 80% of its total capacity.
Both teams are known for their huge fan bases in the UAE with spectators of both sides playing a crucial role in their success so far.
Last week, Al Ain were fully backed by their fans as they returned with a 2-1 win against Al Wasl, while Shabab Al Ahli fans played an equally crucial role in their club’s hard-fought win against Al Jazira.