Al Ain players told to focus on Asian Champions League preparation

Arabian Gulf League title celebrations put on hold until after their group game against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab, writes Amith Passela.

Al Ain, in purple, drew their last Asian Champions League game against Pakhtakor. Marwan Naamani / AFP
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Al Ain won their 12th Arabian Gulf League title on Friday but their celebrations have been put on hold until after their Asian Champions League away match against Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

“It is an important game and we want the players and the technical staff to keep their focus on that game and to carry on with their preparation,” Sheikh Abdullah Mohammed bin Khaled, chairman of the club’s board of directors, said on Saturday.

“Of course we are the league champions but the celebrations can wait until after the ACL match. I am sure everyone from the fans to our well-wishers will understand the importance of our match against Shabab.”

Al Ain were handed the league title following Al Jazira's defeat to Baniyas 4-2 at the Mohammed bin Zayed stadium on Friday, leaving the Garden City Club with an unassailable 10-point lead with three games left.

“We knew we had the league title within our grasp but didn’t expect it to happen with three games left,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

“The league is now behind us. We have other objectives and the ACL, especially the next game, which is the most important for us at the moment. Hopefully we can achieve that objective, too.”

Al Ain are the only unbeaten team in the ACL’s Group B with a win and three draws but they are in second place behind Naft Tehran (7) with two games left.

To reach the round of 16 Al Ain need to win one of their two remaining games.

Having wrapped up the league title, Al Ain can concentrate their resources towards the ACL and the President’s Cup, which begins on March 15.

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