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AFC Champions League

Poor performance from AGL teams can see them lose one more ACL spot

13:10 GMT+3 22/04/2021
Sharjah FC
AGL teams must do better to keep ACL spots...

In the existing format, the top two teams of the UAE Arabian Gulf League (AGL) get a direct entry into the group stage of the AFC Champions League (ACL). The third-placed team has to participate in the ACL qualifiers to earn a spot in the group stages. 

However, things could change if the AGL teams do not pull up their socks in the marquee club competition of the continent and perform better. Al-Ain who were the finalists in 2016 have seen a steep decline in their performances in recent years.

They had finished in the bottom place of their group stages in 2019 and 2020 and in 2021, they could not even make it to the round-robin stage from the qualifiers as they were defeated 4-0 by Iran's Foolad Khouzestan. And this has not been a rare occurrence. In their last seven ACL games, Al Zaeem have lost three games by a margin of 4-0. 

Their form in the domestic league is also not encouraging as they languish in the sixth place after 23 rounds, six points adrift of third-placed Shabab Al Ahli. Hence, it will not be surprising if they miss out on ACL action for two consecutive years. 

The other UAE teams have a similar story. In 2019, Al Wasl conceded 18 goals in six games to finish last in their group, while Al Nasr could not even get past the playoff stage. Only Al Wahda earned a spot in the knockouts, but they were also eliminated at the Round of 16. 

In 2020, the unimpressive string of displays continued on the Asian stage. Al-Ain and Sharjah could not make their way out of the group stage, Al Wahda had to step down due to Covid cases in the team and Shabab Al-Ahli could progress no further than the Round of 16. 

In the current edition, Sharjah are doing reasonably well with seven points from three games but Shabab Al-Ahli are still winless and have just a point after three matches. Al Wahda, meanwhile, have a win, loss and a draw from three games in the ongoing edition's group stages. 

The poor run of form has impacted the AGL's continental ranking adversely. They are currently seventh-ranked with 61.87 points. Their point accumulation over the years has decreased significantly which has resulted in a drop in their rankings. 

In 2016, they added 18 points which came down to 11.350 in the following year. In 2018, they could manage only 8.100 which further decreased to 7.633 in 2019. 

There is a yawning gap with the sixth-placed Iranian league who have 81.724 points. They have already lost a group stage spot due to the fall in rankings and if things don't change for the better, there is a possibility of losing one more direct spot in the upcoming editions.