Henk ten Cate has urged his Al Jazira side not to get distracted by the possibly of meeting Real Madrid at the Fifa Club World Cup and concentrate solely on coming through the tournament's opening match.
The UAE champions, competing in the December 6-16 event as host representatives, could face the European champions at the semi-final stage following Monday's draw in Abu Dhabi.
However, Jazira must first defeat New Zealand’s Auckland City in the play-off at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on December 6 and then get past the Asian Champions League winners - that team will be decided in late November - in the quarter-final three days later.
Only then would they play Madrid in the last-four clash at Zayed Sports City on December 13. Zinedine Zidane's men, the defending champions, enter at the semi-final.
Speaking after the draw, Ten Cate said Jazira must guard against complacency and forget for now about that potential marquee encounter with Madrid.
“It’s all about the first game,” the Dutchman said. “This is what you have to focus on, nothing more. This is the most important. It would be nice for everybody within the club, the players, me and especially for the supporters. But the only thing you can say is focus on the first game, forget about the rest.
“Don’t underestimate the other clubs, of course. The best thing is that after winning the first game you play at least two games. And this is what we have to focus on. Whether it’s maybe possibly Real Madrid or whoever, at this stage it’s not important.
"The most important thing is to qualify. This is our biggest aim. It’s going to be amazing if we’re capable of winning the first round and then going to the next stage.”
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Jazira have not begun the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) season well, losing two of their opening three matches. The Abu Dhabi side will obviously hope to be in much better form by the time they kick off the Club World Cup against Auckland City, although as of now Ten Cate conceded he knew little about the Oceania champions.
“No, not yet,” he said. “The game is December 6, so this is a long time. A lot can happen. I think they hope they can play us right now because we’re not in the best of shape. But I assure you that we’re going to be way better in December."
Asked about competing at the event after capturing last season’s AGL title, Ten Cate added: “It’s the cherry on the cake, to be honest. Winning the championship was very nice, but competing in a major tournament like this for a club like Al Jazira is the top achievement of all time.”
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