Al Ahli's struggle with domestic form and injuries has not affected their confidence, says Henk ten Cate, their manager, as his team gets ready to host Qatar's Al Sadd in the second match of their AFC Champions League campaign tonight. Ahli, the Pro League champions, are lagging behind in seventh in the table. They started their 2010 Asian campaign with a 4-2 defeat at the Iranian club Mes Kerman, after leading 2-1 until the 75th minute.
Ten Cate, however, insists that result has had no bearing on his squad's confidence. "Since I have come here, the one thing that has impressed me the most about these players is their commitment and high spirits," said the Dutchman. "So I do not think there will be any psychological pressure on the team. "The team has just been unlucky this season and fighting hard to come out of this phase. We played a good game against Mes Kerman, but suffered due to a lack of focus towards the end.
"The 4-2 defeat was a tough lesson for the players." Bare, Ahli's Brazilian striker, was injured in last week's Etisalat Cup match meaning Ahmed Khalil will have to play as a lone striker. Cosmin Olaroiu, Al Sadd's Romanian coach, whose team were drubbed 3-0 at home by Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in the first match, said: "He [Bare] is a good striker, strong and fast, but his absence could actually turn out to be good for Ahli."
Meanwhile, Al Ain are missing Marcio Emerson, their Brazilian forward, for tonight's Group C clash away in Iran with Sepahan. "Emerson is a player no coach wouldn't like to be without, but we have to look at the long term benefits of the team," said Toninho Cerezo, the Al Ain coach. "But as a coach, I am not dependent on one player. We need to play as a team and that should be our strength."