Al Ain need ‘great strength and focus’ to reach Asian Champions League semi-final

With the scores level at 0-0 after the first quarter-final leg, Al Ain need to beat Lokomotiv in Uzbekistan to advance.
Al Ain defender Ismail Ahmed has said the team wants to "make the Al Ain fans happy" by securing a positive result against Lokomotiv in the Asian Champions League quarter-final second leg. Pawan Singh / The National
Al Ain defender Ismail Ahmed has said the team wants to "make the Al Ain fans happy" by securing a positive result against Lokomotiv in the Asian Champions League quarter-final second leg. Pawan Singh / The National

Al Ain take on Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent on Tuesday in the second leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final. The aggregate score is 0-0.

Delicately poised

The two sides played out a tense stalemate at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium three weeks ago. Al Ain, Asian champions in 2003, come into the match on the back of last Wednesday’s dispiriting 5-1 defeat to Al Ahli in the Arabian Gulf Cup, although they were missing all of their UAE internationals. They begin their Arabian Gulf League campaign on Sunday against Baniyas.

In-form opposition

In contrast, Lokomotiv are flying high at the top of the Uzbek top flight, unbeaten after 20 rounds and registering 16 wins in the process. The latest came on Saturday, when they defeated Shortan 3-0 to maintain their five-point lead at the summit. Lokomotiv have not tasted defeat in this year’s Champions League either, even though they are contesting the knockout stage for the first time.

Maintaining away-day success

“Our main target is to beat Lokomotiv, which requires a performance of great strength and focus, especially since our opponents have the same ambitions,” said Zlatko Dalic, the Al Ain manager. “We have wonderful experience in the Champions League and we have spoken together about our strong away record. Against Zobahan in the last round, we were able to win in Iran after drawing at home. I wish to continue in the same way.”

Building on the first leg

“We’re well aware of the importance of the match, and our task will not be easy in Uzbekistan, especially after the goalless first game and our failure to get the win at home,” said Ismail Ahmed, the Al Ain defender. “But more importantly, we didn’t concede an away goal. We’re determined to win and return to the UAE with a positive outcome that is consistent with our ambitions and makes the Al Ain fans happy.”

Defensive absentees

Al Ain will be without their first-choice full-backs, Mohammed Ahmed (injured) and Mohammed Fayez (suspended). The inexperienced Fawzi Fayez and Saeed Al Menhali will deputise. “We trust in the capabilities of each other because any player wearing the Al Ain logo should carry the responsibility whenever called upon,” Ismail Ahmed said. “The substitutes will prove their capabilities. Football is a team game and we will stand by their side.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM

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