Al Ain stand on the cusp of record 13th League title
A victory on Saturday night will give The Boss their first crown in three years
Al Ain stand on the cusp of a record-breaking 13th title and although Al Wahda do have a peek at it, The Boss can snuff them out of the reckoning and put this season's Arabian Gulf League to bed in the most simplest of ways, with a win.
A victory on Saturday night will give the storied club their first League crown in three years, with a round to spare and also put daylight between them and the rest in terms of number of League titles won. Coming as it is, in the 50th year of their existence, it will be a tremendous achievement.
But if only things were quite as simple as that. Zoran Mamic's men run into a resurgent Al Nasr, who have aspirations of their own. The Blues are tussling with Al Wasl, their rivals down the road for third spot and with it the last and final available berth for next season's AFC Champions League.
Furthermore, Al Nasr are in the midst of a purple patch, unbeaten in seven fixtures with six wins under Ivan Jovanovic.
So, the penultimate fixture at the Shabab Al Ahli Stadium in Al Awir, the new stomping ground of Shabab Al Ahli and Al Nasr's temporary home, should make for a sumptuous and lip-smacking prospect. Al Ain are on 47 points, four points clear of their closest challengers Al Wahda and a win will wrap things up for the Garden City club. But it won't be easy by any means and Mamic said as much as he previewed the game on Thursday evening.
The Croatian warned his side not to get too ahead of themselves and said that celebrations were clearly on hold. "We are two steps away from the end of the race line. We are not thinking of celebrations just yet. Our only focus at the moment is the next game against Al Nasr and returning with a win," Mamic said at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
Al Nasr are currently third with 36 points but it is a thinnest of gaps that they hold against Al Wasl. Just a point separates them and The Blues will be looking to extend their unbeaten run and stay ahead of The Cheetahs.
And Mamic was aware of what his side will be up against. "We are well aware that our game against Al Nasr won't be easy, especially since that they have not lost a game in seven matches," the 46-year-old said.
Mamic also complimented Al Nasr by saying that The Blues would have been in the race for the League if not for their slow start. "Had Al Nasr started the season well, they would have been in a much better position on the table and probably fighting for the League. They are a strong team with a good coach but we are determined in going out there and winning those three points," added Mamic.
Al Nasr have undergone a turnaround since Jovanovic took over from former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, with the effervescent Serbian plotting their rise from mid-table to the top three.
Meanwhile, Al Wahda will look to keep the championship burning, no matter how bleak their chances are. The Clarets need to win against Ajman and their final fixture of the season against Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira and hope Al Ain lost to Al Nasr and Al Dhafra.
It is too long a shot but not beyond the realms of possibility.
It would a tad unlucky as Al Wahda have transformed under Laurentiu Reghecampf, with the Romanian instilling an exciting and attacking brand of football. They have been the form team this season and the League title would have capped a stellar year where they won the Arabian Gulf Super Cup and the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Nonetheless, their time will surely come.
Al Wasl vs Hatta, Zabeel Stadium, 6pm
Al Dhafra vs Shabab Al Ahli, Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Stadium, 6 pm
Dibba vs Emirates, Fujairah Stadium, 6 pm
Al Nasr vs Al Ain, Shabab Al Ahli Stadium (Al Awir), 6 p.m
Al Wahda vs Ajman, Zayed Sports City Stadium, 6 p.m
Al Jazira vs Sharjah, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, 8.30 p.m
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