All eyes when the Arabian Gulf League restarts should be on Japan playmaker Shoji Nakajima in his probable debut for Al Ain at dangerous Khor Fakkan
Nakajima, 26, has been the winter transfer market’s stellar addition in the UAE. The celebrated Porto loanee is now tasked with lifting a club who ended the first half of 2020/21 an unacceptable nine points off leaders Sharjah’s pace, in fifth.
Saturday’s opponents at Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qassimi Stadium, however, downed second-placed Al Jazira 3-0 a fortnight ago in the top flight and have accelerated eight points away from the drop zone in 11th. This momentum was checked by 9-2 aggregate quarter-final defeat to Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Al Wahda will also hope for similar fresh inspiration when 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin returns to the AGL.
The Syria forward’s mixed four-year stint at Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal was ended earlier this month. But he earned this glamour switch after he scored 16 goals in 25 AGL run-outs for unfashionable Al Dhafra from 2016-17.
Only one win was recorded in his new employer’s last seven top-flight matches – a devastating run they’ll aim to correct at bottom-placed Hatta on Friday. Second-bottom Ajman should have former Bani Yas, Al Shabab and Chapecoense defensive midfielder Luiz Antonio within their ranks for 10th-placed Al Dhafra’s visit on the same day, plus a top-four clash awaits between Jazira and an Al Nasr who are reportedly locked in negotiations to bring Brazil creator Everton Ribeiro back to the UAE from Flamengo.
Shabab Al Ahli should be full of confidence on Saturday when they host Ittihad Kalba after they followed Arabian Gulf Super Cup success with progression in the AG Cup, Sharjah must respond against lowly Fujairah to defeat in both those competitions and third-placed Bani Yas have won five of their last six AGL clashes ahead of Al Wasl’s visit.
MATCH-WEEK 14 FIXTURES
17:30 Hatta v Al Wahda
17:30 Ajman v Al Dhafra
20:15 Al Jazira v Al Nasr
17:30 Khor Fakkan v Al Ain
17:30 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club v Ittihad Kalba
20:15 Sharjah v Fujairah
20:15 Bani Yas v Al Wasl
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