Wednesday marks the start of round 21 of the Arabian Gulf League, just six rounds away from the finish line. The Champions, top four and relegation places are all yet to be decided. The 14 pro clubs are fighting for their respective ambitions in this difficult stage, all looking to bring joy to their fans come the end of the season.
Round 21, designated the ‘Women's Day Round' as part of the Pro League Committee's initiative celebrating the International Women Day, kicks-off on Wednesday, 8th of March and continues through to Friday the 10th before a 25 days long break for the UAE national team's matches against Japan and Australia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, before the league resumes on April 5th.
The previous round saw no changes in the league table, despite some adding to their tally with wins or draws. Despite losing 1-2 to Al Ahli, Al Jazira remain top of the league, but have their lead at the top reduced to six points, further igniting the title race. At the other end of the table, no less than six teams are in the battle to escape relegation.
Round 21 kicks-off from Hamdan bin Zayed Stadium in the Western Region, where high-flying Al Dhafra, looking to add to their 29 points, host an invigorated Al Ahli side, fresh from a 2-1 win over leaders Al Jazira to stay within touching distance from the top of the league.
At the end of day one, all eyes will be on the Abu Dhabi Emirate Derby when third place Al Ain travel to Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium to face Al Jazira in the 20:30 kick-off. A win for the hosts gives them the opportunity to tighten their grip on the top spot, while an away win will blow wide open the title race, especially should Al Ahli and Al Wasl get wins this weekend.
Thursday starts with another derby in the Emirate of Sharjah where 11th placed Sharjah host tenth placed Kalba in the 17:40 kick-off. Both teams go into the game with 17 points to their names, and both come off the back of defeats in the previous round.
The 20:30 kick-off on Thursday at Abu Dhabi's Al Nahyan Stadium sees Al Wahda, in fifth place with 31 points, hosting bottom side Bani Yas who have lost their last game 3-4 to Al Wasl to stay at 11 points.
Three matches take place in the final day of round 21; Hatta host Dibba in the 17:35 kick-off, the hosts sitting ninth with 20 points while visiting Dibba could catch them with a win as they sit 12th with 17 points, having clinched a draw against Al Shabab in the previous round. Five minutes later, title contenders Al Wasl, fourth with 43 points, kick-off at Zabeel Stadium against 13th placed Emirates with 12 points.Round 21 concludes with a Dubai Derby as Al Shabab welcome Al Nasr to Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium at 20:30 on Friday night. ‘The Hawks' are in eighth place with 25 points while the visiting Blues are two places and four points better-off, both sides having failed to compete for the top four spots, but also safe from the relegation threat.