Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ahli coach, says a full week’s training has provided his side with the ideal preparation to ignite their Asian Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
The UAE champions, struggling domestically as they sit sixth in the Arabian Gulf League, last played a match seven days ago, when they opened their continental account with a 3-3 draw at home to Al Ahli, their Saudi Arabian namesakes.
A break in league has therefore given the Dubai club a rare opportunity to work uninterrupted for Wednesday’s Group D encounter away to Tractor Sazi, who currently lie second in the Iranian top flight.
Olaroiu is particularly happy with the time spent on the training pitch, especially given Ahli’s recent form — they have not won in four matches — and that they extensively remodelled their foreign contingent during the winter transfer window. During that period, the club signed three midfielders: Oussama Assaidi, Everton Ribeiro and Kwon Kyung-won.
“The match against Tractor Sazi will be difficult, as is usual when you play against Iranian teams,” Olaroiu said. “It is never an easy game, especially because they have a big support. But, for us, it is the first time this season we have had a week to prepare and train and so I hope we get the best out of this chance.
“The Champions League always gives the players extra motivation. I hope we play with the same spirit as in the last match.”
Olaroiu, who will be without suspended captain Luis Jimenez for the trip to Tabriz, is wary of the threat posed by Tractor Sazi, despite Antonio Oliveira’s team beginning the group with a 2-1 defeat at Uzbekistan’s Nasaf.
In Andranik Teymourian, the former English Premier League midfielder, Tractor Sazi boast considerable experience, while Brazilian striker Edinho is the top scorer in this season’s Iranian Pro League, with 14 goals. He found the net last week in Asia, too, before Nasaf responded to eventually take the three points.
Oliveira expects a tough test on Matchday Two, although he said playing at home will increase his side’s determination to register a first victory in the pool.
“It will be a difficult match against Al Ahli, since Champions League’s matches are always difficult,” he said. “We are in a strong group and we will try our best to win the game, because when you play here you represent Tractor Sazi and the whole city of Tabriz. We are ready after losing the first match to Nasaf. We will try to correct that against Al Ahli.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE