Al Ain start heavy slate with trip to Al Jazira in Asian Champions League

Squad has five games in 13 days but Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic is not looking past domestic rivals Al Jazira in Asian Champions League match on Tuesday night in the capital, writes Amith Passela.
Mohamed Ahmad Gharib, right, and his Al Ain side will visit the capital on Tuesday night for an Asian Champions League match. Karim Sahib / AFP
Mohamed Ahmad Gharib, right, and his Al Ain side will visit the capital on Tuesday night for an Asian Champions League match. Karim Sahib / AFP

ABU DHABI // Zlatko Dalic, the Al Ain coach, has to prepare his players for five games over 13 days beginning with Tuesday night’s Asian Champions League last 16 first-leg match against Al Jazira.

Next is their final game in the domestic Arabian Gulf League game against Al Wasl away on Saturday before the second-leg meeting with Jazira on May 13.

They meet Al Ahli in the President’s Cup final on May 18 and in-between – on May 15 – they play English Premier League club Manchester City in a friendly match.

The game against City, according to club sources, will be “purely an exhibition” with some of the key Al Ain players expected to appear for just 15 or 20 minutes.

Nobody from the club would officially comment and Dalic spoke only of the ACL match. He insisted he was not looking beyond the first game against Jazira.

“A draw in the first leg will be a good result for us even though we will try to win this,” he said yesterday.

“I have big respect for Jazira and their coach [Walter] Zenga. I know we have a very difficult game. It is a beginning of a difficult 10 days.”

Al Ain met Jazira five days ago and gave up a 2-0 half-time lead for a 2-2 result in the AGL at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

“Each game is different and each competition is different, I don’t want to make any calculations,” Dalic said.

“From the last five away matches we have played we have won four. We played better outside than at home and with better concentration – like in Iran and Qatar in the ACL.

“There are no secrets about Al Ain or Jazira. We both know their game and they know our game. It will be how the players execute the plans and counter the other team’s plans on the pitch. We are ready for a tight game.”

Zenga has a win in mind from their home game at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

“We would like to go into the second leg in Al Ain with an advantage. This result will be decided over 180 minutes between two good and very strong teams,” the Italian said.

“We have met them in the domestic league five days ago but the ACL over two legs is different. I know, for Al Ain, it is an important day because they have a very busy schedule.

“They play the President’s Cup final and a friendly game against Manchester City. It is tough for them. Probably, they would want to finish off the ACL tie with us in the first leg.

“But we are thinking about ourselves and we want to beat them to go to the next round. I had preferred to play Al Ain in the quarter-final.

“My wish was to see that the UAE have two teams in the last eight of the ACL.”

Jazira have two objectives left this season, to go all the way in the ACL and earn a top-four finish in the AGL for a passage to the 2015 ACL or a play-off spot.

“We have had a good season,” Zenga said. “It could have been great had we beaten Al Ahli in the final [Arabian League Cup].

“Our target this season was to qualify for the ACL 2015 and reach a ­final.”

apassela@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 6, 2014 04:00 AM

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