Al Ain host Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in Match Day 3 of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night. John McAuley previews a must-win match for the UAE club.
VICTORY IS VITAL
Al Ain have begun their 2016 Asian campaign in the worst possible fashion, losing twice against Qatar's El Jaish. Successive 2-1 defeats have left the UAE champions bottom of Group D, with the club probably requiring at least three victories from their remaining four matches to progress to the knockout stages. Al Ain are the only Emirati side to have won the tournament, in 2003.
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Al Ahli currently lead the Saudi Pro League, one point ahead of Al Hilal with six matches left. The Jeddah side, Champions League runners-up in 2012, have fared slightly better than Al Ain thus far in the group, winning their opening match before suffering defeat in the reverse against Uzbekistan’s Nasaf last time out. As a result, Ahli sit third in the pool.
THE TASK AHEAD
“We have already lost two games in the Champions League, and so we need to correct our mistakes,” said Zlatko Dalic, the Al Ain coach. “In the last two league matches we have scored seven goals, but we must avoid these defensive errors. Al Ahli are a very strong team who are top of the Saudi league. They lost to Al Hilal in the Crown Prince Cup last month, so they will be doing their best to win tomorrow. But all my players are ready.”
HANDLING THE STRAIN
“In the first two Champions League matches we played well, and everyone at the club knows how important it is to win tomorrow,” Dalic said. “To qualify, our job is a bit difficult now and the pressure is on us, but this is normal for us. For the past two seasons, we’ve had the same pressure and we’re used to it. This is a positive for the players to make them do their best. I hope to win.”
“It is important for us is to get the points in order to achieve our goals, which we have been asking the players for,” said Christian Gross, the Ahli coach. “Our strategy is always to win any match. We are here to return with the three points. Al Ain are a strong team who are looking to win the tournament, just like the ambitions of our club. We have the motivation and the incentive, and hope to use those to achieve our targets.”
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