Zenga hopes Asian Champions League success provides lift for Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup final

Italian says Abu Dhabi club have met each of his aims since he arrived in October

Al Jazira coach Walter Zenga hopes his team's Asian Champions League defeat of Al Rayyan in Doha on April 16, 2014, spurs them to victory in Saturday's Arabian Gulf Cup final against Al Ahli. Fadi Al Assaad / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Walter Zenga is hoping that Al Jazira's qualification for the second round of the Asian Champions League will inspire his team to Arabian Gulf Cup success at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Saturday.

Jazira confirmed their spot in the last 16 of the continental championship with a battling 3-2 triumph over Qatari club Al Rayyan on Wednesday, bouncing back from a 2-1 deficit.

Zenga said he believes that win has lifted the spirits of his team, who have gone four matches without a win in the Arabian Gulf League and lost at Emirates last week.

“When I started with Al Jazira in late October, our goal was to qualify for the second round of the Champions League, finish high enough in the league to clinch one of the berths for Asia next season and reach the final of one of the cups,” Zenga said.

“We have already qualified for the second round in Asia and we are playing the final of the Arabian Gulf Cup. We are proud of what we have achieved so far and our goal now is to return to Abu Dhabi with the trophy.

“Winning the last match in Qatar has definitely given a boost ahead of this match against a strong Ahli side, and it will inspire the team to make sure we end the season with a domestic trophy.”

Both Jazira and Al Ahli, the Arabian Gulf League champions, have had a busy schedule since March with their campaigns in Asia and home, but Zenga insisted his players were not worn out after their efforts at Rayyan and are looking forward to the final.

“We do not feel any fatigue,” the Italian said. “We are happy and excited to be playing this final, and the win at Rayyan has helped our preparations on the mental side.

“It is going to be an exciting match because both teams play beautiful, attacking football and we both know each other very well.

“Such matches could be decided by players with special abilities, like we saw in the Kings Cup final when Real Madrid beat Barcelona thanks to a brilliant solo effort from Gareth Bale.

“I am happy to say I have 24 players with special abilities.”

Ahli and Jazira have met twice in the league this season, with the first in Dubai a 2-2 draw and the second a 3-1 win for the league champions.

“Losing against Ahli in Round 22 is a thing of the past,” said Khamis Esmail, Jazira’s defensive midfielder. “The cup final is a fresh challenge, totally different from a league match.

“It is true that Ahli have been better than us in all competitions this season, but we can’t think about that. This is a one-off match and anything can happen in 90 minutes.

“We know it will be a tough game, but with effort and concentration we can win it.”

The victor tonight will be the first club in the six seasons of the competition to win it twice.

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE