Mohammad Abdullah, Sports Reporter
With nothing much to play for on the north of the table, the spotlight in the final round of the Pro League will be on the Al Dhafra-Al Orooba match on Wednesday.
With Al Ain having won the title, Sharjah and Al Wahda finishing second and third respectively to book their places in the AFC Champions League next season, all seems to be done and dusted in the upper half of the standings.
However, after an intense battle throughout the season the equation has boiled down to the winner takes it all towards the bottom of the standings. The match between Al Orooba and Al Dhafra will be decisive and the result will determine who stays afloat and who gets relegated.
Both the teams are fighting for their survival in the top flight. The two teams finishing at the bottom are relegated. Emirates, who won the promotion to the top flight last year, have already been relegated after a dismal performance.
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The second team to be relegated will be decided in the final round of the season when Al Orooba and Al Dhafra lock horns in the most anticipated match of the year. Al Dhafra have a slight advantage as they are on the 12th spot with 21 points while Al Orooba are one step further with a deficit of three points.
Even a draw will pave the way for Al Dhafra to remain in the top flight, while Al Orooba need at least a victory to keep their hopes alive. A victory will put Al Orooba at par with Al Dhafra on 21 points but in that case the latter will be relegated because of head-to-head record.
Al Dhafra coach said they are confident of winning the match and staying in the top division next season. He said the team was not lucky in the last few games that is why they are fighting for survival.
“We put up a great fight against Al Nasr and won the match. We will try to put the same kind of performance again and run away with all three points. We know that even a draw will guarantee us survival but we will play to win,” said the coach.
“We have worked hard and we are prepared to face all the challenges. We know it is going to be a tough match and Al Orooba will put in everything to win the game.
“They are a very strong team and their place in the table does not justify their strength. But we are also confident of winning and remaining afloat in the top flight,” he added.
“One of the best former Al Dhafra strikers, who was injured during the current season, and our former national team player Ahmed Ali encouraged his colleagues during the team’s main training.
“I also appeal to the fans to come in full capacity and give their support to the team in the most important match of the season for us. There are no injuries and we are likely to field a full-strength squad,” he concluded.
Al Dhafra player Mohamed Seif confirmed their readiness for this match, which he described as the harvest match.
“The victory against Al Nasr in the last match gave the players great motivation and confidence in their abilities. We believe we deserve to be in the professional league,” said Seif.
Al Orooba coach Fathi Al Obeidi also exuded confidence in his team and vowed to leave no stone unturned.
“We are ready to face Al Dhafra and we will give our best to eke out a victory against a very strong team. We know the importance of the match but I know a win puts everything in order,” said Obeidi.
Meanwhile, in the other match of the day, Al Jazira will take on Al Wasl and Al Wahda will face Al Nasr. Al Jazira coach Marcel Keizer said that he is facing a lot of problems in selecting the squad because of a long list of absentees.
Key players like Ali Khaseif, Abdulrahman Al Ameri, Rakan Waleed, Milos Kosanovic, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Mohamed Al Attas, Mhammed Rabii, Salim Rashid, Nawaf Salim, Abdulla Idris, Zayed Al Ameri Mamadou Coulibaly, Abdulla Ramadan, Abdulla Fadaaq, Khalfan Mubarak, Ali Mabkhout, and Omer Traore, for different reasons like injuries, military service, and national teams’ training camps.
“I have a problem selecting players to form the team squad who will face Al Wasl on Wednesday night because the absentees’ list is getting longer and longer,” said Keizer.
“We will field a very young team anyway, and we know that the result will not make any difference in the two teams’ positions in the league table, but we will play with our eyes locked on the three points and nothing else,” he said.
“We are not satisfied or happy about finishing the league in the 4th place, considering that we started the season well and we won the Super Cup for the first time in Al Jazira Club history.
“After that, we played too many games in a very short period of time, including the three local competitions, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the AFC Champions League, and we started to lose players to long-term injuries, and all these reasons led us to the finish as fourth,” added Keizer.