Arabian Gulf League approaches the finish line- Preview Round 24
The 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League season is approaching the finish line with just three rounds to go. The four teams occupying the bottom four positions in the table will be embroiled in a fierce scuffle for survival as Kalba, Dibba, Emirates and Bani Yas battle out with their points tally for the season currently standing at 18, 18, 13 and 13 respectively.
The results of round 24 will go a long way towards clarifying the situation at the bottom of the table. Meanwhile, at the top, the two-horse race between leaders Al Jazira and chasers Al Ahli continues as the former, with 59 points, need one point from their last three matches to be officially crowned champions while Al Ahli are eight points behind and need to win all remaining matches while also waiting for Al Jazira to lose all three.
An Al Ahli defeat would all but seal the title for Al Jazira, but the Red Knights also play with the objective of retaining second place in the table, as third-placed Al Wasl sit just three points behind them with 48, while Al Ain with 46 points in fourth are also in contention for one of the two remaining AFC Champions League spots.
Round 24 matches take place over the course of Friday and Saturday with four matches on the opening day. In the round's curtain raiser at 18:00 at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, Al Shabab, coming off the back of a 3-0 defeat to Al Jazira, host and ecstatic Al Dhafra side fresh from beating Dibba 5-0. The hosts are eighth with 26 points while the visitors are seventh with 32 points.
Relegation strugglers Dibba host Champions League hopefuls Al Wasl at 20:45. The visitors will hope to build on their famous 4-3 comeback win over Al Ain in the previous round to tighten their grip on third place.
Emirates aim to hold on to their survival hopes when they welcome fellow relegation battlers Kalba to Ras Al Khaima. Failing to win Friday's six-pointer will complicate Emirates' chances with just two matches to go.
Friday concludes with another important clash in the relegation battle as rock bottom Bani Yas travel to Dubai, aiming to revive their hopes of staying in the Arabian Gulf League when they face Al Nasr at Al Maktoum Stadium in the third 20:45 kick-off.
Saturday sees three encounters; Al Jazira travel to Hatta with the objective of sealing the title with two rounds to spare while the hosts go into the 18:00 match without pressure, having secured their position in the top flight for another season as they sit ninth with 25 points.
Al Ahli kick-off against mid-table Sharjah at the same time at Rashid Stadium. The hosts will have on eye on Al Jazira result as only an Al Jazira defeat coupled with a win for Al Ahli keeps them in the title race. Sharjah had beaten Emirates in the previous round to confirm their place in next season's Arabian Gulf League.
Round 24 concludes with a classic match as fourth-placed Al Ain welcome Abu Dhabi rivals Al Wahda to Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Saturday's 20:45 kick-off. Al Ain need a win to keep the pressure on Al Wasl and Al Ahli in the race for AFC Champions League places, while fifth-placed Al Wahda play for bragging rights and to bounce back from their 1-2 defeat against Al Ahli in the previous round.