Al Ain: It’s must-win game for the United Arab Emirates as they look to keep alive their slim hopes of a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they host Group B’s second-placed team Saudi Arabia at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
In coach Edgardo Bauza’s first competitive tie in charge of the UAE, his side salvaged a last-gasp draw in Bangkok on Matchday Eight thanks to Ali Mabkhout’s late leveler.
The point ensured there is a still a mathematical possibility of qualifying automatically for fourth-placed UAE but only a victory against Tuesday’s visitors will see their Road to Russia 2018 continue to the final round of matches next week.
Saudi Arabia may have lost out to Australia on Matchday Eight but after the UAE failed to win against Thailand and Group B leaders Japan drew with Iraq, the Green Falcons remain strongly placed to return to the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time since 2006.
A win over the UAE for Bert van Marwijk’s men would mean Japan would travel to Jeddah next week with – at best – a point’s advantage. And the Saudis, who boast a formidable home record, would fancy their chances.