Saudi Professional League is back on Tuesday – here are the must-watch matches

The pause is, almost, over.

Tuesday night heralds the 2019/20 Saudi Professional League’s resumption, behind closed doors, after five months inaction because of coronavirus. The emotions about witnessing west Asia’s grandest club competition kick back into gear, for an eight-game sprint to the finish, has only been heightened by an engrossing match-week 23.

From a titanic summit clash in Riyadh, to tension at the bottom and the race for Asian qualification, here are three must-watch fixtures.

AL NASSR V AL HILAL (WEDNESDAY, 22:00)

Saudi football has waited long enough for this.

A title battle at boiling point was made to simmer in March when alarming events elsewhere overtook it. The heat is now, unquestionably, back on, even in the absence of the impassioned atmosphere generated by a sell-out crowd at King Fahd International Stadium.

Champions Nassr will be feeling its force the most, a six-point gap in second to leaders – and great rivals – Hilal cannot grow any larger. For their star-studded opponents, a fantastic opportunity awaits to twin domestic supremacy with November’s cherished AFC Champions League conquest.

Nassr’s belated weekend agreement with Galatasaray about a permanent deal for pivotal Brazilian centre-back Maicon has significantly boosted their cause. So, too, the calming of a dispute with international playmaker Giuliano.

Further belief is provided by rich memories of their compatriot Bruno Uvini’s iconic 97th-minute header in last season’s fixture which did so much to secure a first SPL crown since 2014/15.

October’s 2-1 victory at Hilal also increased an unbeaten run in this pressure match-up to four; some turnaround from the previous three-game losing streak.

Al Nassr celebrate March 2019’s epic winner against Al Hilal (EPA).

The division’s cagiest defence – only 16 conceded – must, however, attempt to engineer victory. This adds another layer of excitement,

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Emirates D10 League providing an excellent platform for aspiring cricketers in the UAE

The inaugural Emirates D10 League has come as a boost for several domestic cricketers in the UAE, with the tournament marking the resumption of cricket in the region after a prolonged break.

Six teams are battling it out for the maiden prize in the tournament which is set to culminate on Friday with the final. While the domestic tournament is helping several UAE internationals to shake off their rustiness, it has also come as a boon for several aspiring youngsters in the region.

With a total of 34 matches spread over two weeks in Dubai, the D10 League organised by the Emirates Cricket Board has come as an excellent opportunity for these players who dream of playing for the UAE one day.

As such, a chance to test their mettle against established UAE stars and foreign stalwarts such as Zimbabwe’s Graeme Cremer is proving to be a big draw for these young starlets.

One defining characteristic of the tournament is the healthy mix of senior and junior cricketers in the rosters of the six teams in fray. Many youngsters from the various cricket academies in the UAE have been afforded a chance to strut their wares in the ongoing tournament.

Quite a few of the players selected for the competition are from the Kings’ and YTCA cricket academies, including rising UAE star Vriitya Aravind. Representing the ECB Blues, Aravind has been scorching the run-scoring charts with 335 runs in nine matches so far. Other Emirates D10 players to have come through these two academies are Wasi Shah and Hamad Arshad of Ajman Alubond.

For both Hamad and Shah, the experience of playing in the tournament is proving to be a highly valuable one.

“It has been a great experience so far and I am delighted to have been given this

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Get set for 2020/21 Arabian Gulf League after fixture dates and kick-off times announced

The UAE Pro League has announced fixture dates and kick-off times for the 2020/21 Arabian Gulf League, Arabian Gulf Cup and Arabian Gulf League U21.

The announcement follows a coordination meeting with the TV broadcast rights holders; Abu Dhabi Sports, Dubai Sports and Sharjah Sports channels, held last week over teleconference.

The meeting discussed the proposed dates and kick-off times for fixtures in light of the new season draw conducted on July 18 and was chaired by Hassan Taleb Al Marri, UAEPL board member and head of technical committee and attended by Waleed Al Hosani, UAEPL CEO in addition to staff from the relevant departments and broadcasters representatives.

The 2020/21 season gets under way with the first leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup play-offs taking place on September 3 and 4, while the return leg is scheduled for October 1 and 2.

The opening round of matches starts with three fixtures on day one; Ittihad Kalba host Al Jazira at 19:00 and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club welcome Al Dhafra at the same time. September 3 fixtures conclude with Fujairah playing Ajman at 21:30.

The Arabian Gulf Cup action continues on September 4 with two 19:00 kick-offs; Hatta v Bani Yas and Al Ain vs Khor Fakkan, while the round concludes at 21:00 with Al Wahda hosting Al Wasl. Based on the newly introduced cup format, league champions Sharjah and cup title holders Al Nasr received a bye to the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, the Arabian Gulf League kicks-off on September 9th, with match-day one played over three days. On the 9th, Ittihad Kalba get the competition under way at home against Shabab Al Ahli at 18:45, while Hatta travel to Abu Dhabi to face Al Wahda at 21:30 on the same evening.

Matchday One continues on Thursday, September 10 with

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