Bani Yas players warm up during a training session.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
Sharjah will look to consolidate their lead on the top of the standings with a victory over Al Ain in their 16th round match of Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on Saturday.
A total of four matches will be held on day one of matchweek 16th of the AGL. In the other three games Shabab Al Ahli host Al Wahda in a 5:30pm kick-off, Khorfakkan meet Bani Yas in the other early fixture, which will get also get under way at 5:30pm and Ajman visit Hatta in an 8:15pm fixture.
Sharjah coach Abdulaziz Anbari predicted a tough game against Al Ain and said that the title race is expected to hot up as the tournament transpires.
“A tough competition for the title is normal and expected, and we are likely to see other teams coming into the contention for the title.
“We hope that the players will be at the top of their physical fitness and game to help us maintain the stranglehold on top of the standings,” said Anbari.
Sharjah are at the top of the standings with 36 points, leading second-placed Al Jazira by three points. Al Jazira are keeping a foot on the leaders’ tail but they are not in action till Saturday.
“We will go into the match with full focus. We will also field a full-strength squad and try to continue achieving the new heights and positive results,” added Anbari.
“At the same time, we cannot downplay Al Ain’s threat as they are a strong team and can stage a comeback to give us a strong challenge. They can bounce back and be a strong contender for the title,” he apprised.
Al Ain were trounced by a resilient Shabab Al Ahli 4-0 in their last match and are trailing leaders Sharjah by 12 points. They are at the sixth spot in the standings with 24 points.
Sharjah defender Abdullah Ghanem ruled out the importance of any one player in particular in the squad, stressing the fact that all the members are equally important.
“There is no one in the squad more or less important. All are equally important and everyone is able to substitute the other, if needed. We have a group of elite players, who are able to compensate for any absence in any circumstances,” said Ghanem.
Meanwhile, Bani Yas coach Daniel Isaila described Khorfakkan as a strong team, who are capable of springing a surprise on a given day.
“We are aware of the fact that Khorfakkan are a good team and they can be very dangerous opponents on their home turf. They are playing beautiful football, especially on their home ground. It is as important a game as any other,” said Isaila.
In their first meeting during the third round of the league, Bani Yas had thrashed Khorfakkan 5-0.
“That was an important victory for us. It gave us a lot of confidence and provided a good momentum to our campaign. In that game, we got a penalty kick and a Khorfakkan player also got a red card. But that is past now and the next game is not going to be an easy one. We have to really work hard and remain focused to win,” said the coach of Bani Yas, who are third in the standings behind Al Jazira.
Apprising about the absentees, the coach said: “Nicholas Jimenez has returned to the squad but we will see the possibility of his participation in the next match.
“Fawaz Awana’s absence continues due to injury, but he does some light exercises, and John Tipper will also be absent as he is nursing a niggling injury.”
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