Al Ain player Miroslav Stoch. (Photo: Fayez Nureldine / AFP; Illustration: Kevin Jeffers / The National)
Al Ain player Miroslav Stoch. (Photo: Fayez Nureldine / AFP; Illustration: Kevin Jeffers / The National)

The questions Al Ain need to answer entering the Asian Champions League



As part of Ali Khaled's 2015 Asian Champions League preview ahead of Tuesday night's start to group play, he breaks down the chances of the two remaining Arabian Gulf League clubs, Al Ain and Al Ahli, as well as the other challengers for Asia's highest club honour. Below, Ali looks at Al Ain.

Can Al Ain reap benefits of a settled Omar?

Speculation over Omar Abdulrahman’s future is settled after the club’s star signed a contract through the 2017/18 season. The 23-year-old playmaker, who starred at the recent Asian Cup, can concentrate on transferring his excellent form in Australia to the continent’s premier club tournament.

Will Asamoah Gyan recover from Ghana heartbreak?

The competition’s top scorer last year suffered more African Cup of Nations disappointment with his country, losing a dramatic final to the Ivory Coast on penalties. His club will need him to rediscover his form from last season’s Champions League, when he led all scorers with 12 goals, if they are to make another successful run.

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Can Al Ain compete on several different fronts?

While domestic rivals Al Jazira, Al Shabab and Al Wahda can concentrate on the Arabian Gulf League, Al Ain will have to split their focus on two titles they are desperate to win. Last year, that proved too much for manager Zlatko Dalic’s squad.

Can Dalic’s defence withstand the continent’s best?

In last year’s competition, the team’s defence, which had struggled all season, collapsed in the first leg of the semi-final against Al Hilal. But with the central pairing of Mohaned Salem and Ismail Ahmed, if available, Al Ain have the Arabian Gulf League’s best defence this season and can expect to be tighter in the back this time round.

Can Al Ain make the most of their home comforts?

The Garden City club have a chance to get off to a fast start when they host Al Shabab of Riyadh. The club now have had the benefit of starting a new season at the magnificent Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, and a big crowd Tuesday night could help them open with a victory, a major step towards progress to the round of 16.

Key player: Miroslav Stoch, the flying winger

The young Slovak winger was one of Al Ain’s best players in their march to the semi-finals last year, especially in the knockout stages. With Gyan and Abdulrahman often the main preoccupation of opposition defences, he could be a match-winner yet again.

Group verdict

With the memory of last season’s run to the semi-finals still painfully fresh, Al Ain should have enough experience and strength in depth to negotiate this group comfortably, provided their best players avoid injury and exhaustion. The other spot is up for grabs. Al Shabab have underperformed domestically this season and lie in fifth position in the Saudi League. Pakhtakor, despite underperforming in 2013 and not taking part in this competition last year, will see this as a big chance to progress. Any team leading the Iranian domestic league deserves to be taken seriously, but a lack of experience at this level should see Naft Tehran miss out on progress to the knockout stages.

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ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Wenger's Arsenal reign in numbers

1,228 - games at the helm, ahead of Sunday's Premier League fixture against West Ham United.
704 - wins to date as Arsenal manager.
3 - Premier League title wins, the last during an unbeaten Invincibles campaign of 2003/04.
1,549 - goals scored in Premier League matches by Wenger's teams.
10 - major trophies won.
473 - Premier League victories.
7 - FA Cup triumphs, with three of those having come the last four seasons.
151 - Premier League losses.
21 - full seasons in charge.
49 - games unbeaten in the Premier League from May 2003 to October 2004.

Scoreline:

Cardiff City 0

Liverpool 2

Wijnaldum 57', Milner 81' (pen)

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: Constant Variable (CVT)

Power: 141bhp 

Torque: 250Nm 

Price: Dh64,500

On sale: Now

Getting there and where to stay

Etihad Airways operates seasonal flights from Abu Dhabi to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Services depart the UAE on Wednesdays and Sundays with outbound flights stopping briefly in Rome, return flights are non-stop. Fares start from Dh3,315, flights operate until September 18, 2022. 

The Radisson Blu Hotel Nice offers a western location right on Promenade des Anglais with rooms overlooking the Bay of Angels. Stays are priced from €101 ($114), including taxes.

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

New process leads to panic among jobseekers

As a UAE-based travel agent who processes tourist visas from the Philippines, Jennifer Pacia Gado is fielding a lot of calls from concerned travellers just now. And they are all asking the same question.  

“My clients are mostly Filipinos, and they [all want to know] about good conduct certificates,” says the 34-year-old Filipina, who has lived in the UAE for five years.

Ms Gado contacted the Philippines Embassy to get more information on the certificate so she can share it with her clients. She says many are worried about the process and associated costs – which could be as high as Dh500 to obtain and attest a good conduct certificate from the Philippines for jobseekers already living in the UAE. 

“They are worried about this because when they arrive here without the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] clearance, it is a hassle because it takes time,” she says.

“They need to go first to the embassy to apply for the application of the NBI clearance. After that they have go to the police station [in the UAE] for the fingerprints. And then they will apply for the special power of attorney so that someone can finish the process in the Philippines. So it is a long process and more expensive if you are doing it from here.”


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