Dubai: The Bur Dubai derby and the Al Shabab versus Bani Yas rehearsal will be the highlights of third round action of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) this weekend.
While Al Nasr making the short trip across to Al Wasl always has its fair share of excitement, it is the Arabian Gulf Cup dress-rehearsal between Al Shabab and Bani Yas that will certainly gain a lot of attention.
Encounters between the two neighbours have been closely contested with Al Nasr winning 2-0 at home in the third round last season, while the Al Zabeel club made amends towards the end by winning 3-2.
Meanwhile, Al Shabab and neighbours Al Ahli are tied at the top of Group B with ten points each in the Cup competition. Both teams have a chance to advance to the semi-finals, but it is Al Shabab who will have to get a favourable result against Bani Yas when the two teams meet on December 12 in their last group fixture of the Cup.
“We don’t want to think so far away. The Cup and league are two different competitions,” Al Shabab coach Fred Rutten affirmed.
“For the moment, we have the league against Bani Yas and I want all our players to focus totally on this match rather than looking far,” the Dutchman added.
Al Shabab is one of three teams — defending champions Al Ahli and Al Ain are the other two — with a clean record after a couple of rounds of the AGL so far. Al Ahli is at the top with a superior goal difference ahead of Al Ain and Al Shabab.
“From what we have seen, Bani Yas is a team that can play at a very good level, provided they are given the chance to play. They are quick on the counter-attack and it will be very important for us to fight for the three points in our home game. The idea is to win as many points as possible at home,” Rutten said.
“I don’t believe there are any easy games in this league. Even if a team is 0-2 down they are capable of coming back and getting a draw, if not a win. So keeping this in mind we have to stay concentrated for the full 90 minutes and the injury time if we want to win this game,” he added.
In other matches on Friday, Dibba will host Emirates Club of Ras Al Khaimah, while Hatta will go across to fellow new entrants Kalba. On Saturday, with defending champions Al Ahli and Al Ain taking a break, Al Wahda will travel across to Al Dhafra and Al Jazira will host Sharjah.
5.00 Dibba v Emirates (5pm), Al Shabab v Bani Yas (5.05pm), Hatta v Kalba (8pm), Al Wasl v Al Nasr (8pm).
Al Dhafra v Al Wahda (5.15pm), Al Jazira v Sharjah (8pm).