Sharjah, Shabab Al Ahli vie for season's first trophy today
Dubai - The Arabian Gulf Super Cup is the UAE top flight's traditional season-opener and pits the Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah against Shabab Al Ahli, the President's Cup winners
It is still early days in the UAE's football season but a title is already there for the taking.
Sharjah and Shabab Al Ahli get the chance to provide an early marker for the rest of the year when the Arabian Gulf Super Cup returns home on Saturday night.
The Arabian Gulf Super Cup is the UAE top flight's traditional season-opener and pits the Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah against Shabab Al Ahli, the President's Cup winners.
And it will be an opportunity to write a slice of history for both these storied clubs. Sharjah, under Emirati coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari, will be looking to add to the only AGSC title and a first in the professional era. The King had won the third edition in 1993 but haven't done so since UAE football turned pro in 2008.
Meanwhile, Shabab Al Ahli, under Argentine coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena, the former Al Wasl boss, will be eyeing a record-equalling fifth crown.
The Red Knights had won it in 2008 and then followed that up with back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. Their fourth came in 2016, all in their former guise as Al Ahli. A title triumph will not just see them go level with Al Ain but it will also mark their first since being merged between Al Ahli, neighbours Al Shabab and Dubai FC to be rebranded as Shabab Al Ahli in 2017.
Hence, there's a lot at stake for both as they go at each other at the renovated Al Maktoum Stadium, Al Nasr's home ground, also the venue that hosted some fixtures of the AFC Asian Cup in January.
The match also marks a comeback to the UAE after the traditional season-opener was held in the Egyptian capital Cairo last season.
Sharjah and Shabab Al Ahli have faced off each other 31 times across all competitions in the professional era with the latter owning the bragging rights with 16 wins to Sharjah's five. Ten matches between them ended in stalemates. But recent history points to Sharjah with The King having won three of their past four fixtures.
But Sharjah shot-stopper Adel Al Hosani reckoned that no one holds the advantage in a one-off fixture. "It will be a strong encounter and both sides have an equal chance until kick-off, while concentration will be key to winning," said the former Al Wahda goalkeeper, who won the Golden Glove award last season.
"I hope our fans will turn up in numbers to support us, because their role is as important as ours. We are used to having them by our side and with their presence, the trophy will be ours," he added.
Meanwhile, Shabab Al Ahli defender Mohammed Jaber said that a trophy at the beginning of the season would be the ideal start.
"It will be a fiery affair and winning the match will be the best start of the season for us. We have full confidence in overcoming Sharjah and winning the title," said Jaber.