Al Wasl have to cut out their ruinous individual mistakes if they are to stay alive in the 2018 AFC Champions League, according to coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena.
The Cheetahs ended a decade away from Asia’s top table last week in painful fashion, defensive disasters late on against Xavi’s Al Sadd seeing them fall to a 2-1 defeat in Group C.
Their quest continues in chilly Uzbekistan – in the absence of injured star forward Fabio De Lima – on Tuesday when they run-out against Nasaf, who were thrashed 3-0 at Persian Gulf Pro League-holders Persepolis.
“We have a difficult encounter against a strong opponent in the second round of the group stage, especially after the opening loss,” said Arruabarrena.
“The loss in the first game was because of some individual mistakes and we have tried to deal with these mistakes.”
Wasl did not wallow for long. They edged a feisty Bur Dubai-derby against Al Nasr on Friday to make the Arabian Gulf Cup’s semis.
“Winning the derby has given us a strong morale boost,” said Australian midfielder Anthony Caceres.
The four UAE teams enjoyed mixed fortunes when the 2018 AFC Champions League’s group stages began last week.
Here, we assess the situation for round two:
AL WAHDA V AL DUHAIL (18:50, MONDAY)
An enlightening test of the Clarets’ priorities will be on show.
A weakened side got humiliated 5-0 at Lokomotiv Tashkent, yet with their star names back in the fold they humbled rivals Al Ain 5-1 on Friday to reach the Arabian Gulf Cup’s semi-finals. Will their Asian ambitions be sacrificed, once again, versus Al Duhail?
AL AHLI JEDDAH V AL JAZIRA (21:10, MONDAY)
The Pride of Abu Dhabi exited the AG Cup with a whimper last week – a competition coach Henk ten Cate was glad to see the back of.
He is fully committed to the Asian cause, in contrast to last year. Al Ahli Jeddah represent fierce opponents, yet confidence is growing after the opener’s first win in 16 ACL ties.
NASAF V AL WASL (17:00, TUESDAY)
The Cheetahs have been collecting bumps and bruises.
They were emotionally scarred by the late capitulation to Al Sadd when they experienced ACL football for the first time in a decade, while Friday’s AG Cup derby win against rivals Al Nasr was a feisty affair. They must now beat Nasaf to stay in the Asian mix, despite the continued absence of lethal forward Fabio De Lima.
AL AIN V AL RAYYAN (19:10, TUESDAY)
It is a strange time at Al Ain.
They top the Arabian Gulf League and earned a creditable 0-0 draw at Saudi Arabian nemesis Al Hilal last Tuesday, but star man Omar Abdulrahman’s confusing season continued with a poor display in the battering by Wahda.
He and his club must turn it on against Al Rayyan.
A changed side, that still contained the likes of ex-AFC Players of the Year Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman, suffered the indignity of a 5-1 humbling at Zayed Sports City in Friday’s decider.
Even though the fixture came between 2018 AFC Champions League group matches for both clubs, Mamic has marked the cards of several underperforming players for the challenges ahead.
He said: “I do not know what to say after that loss. The players did not make the match and we made several mistakes during the match.
“This is the reality. Al Ain has a number of excellent players who have a professional mentality and international experience.
“However, my team did not show up in the game against Al Wahda and we did a bad job. So, I’m not happy.
“But on the other side, each game you find some positive aspects even if the outcome is negative. For me, I have identified my players I will rely on to benefit my team during the next phase.”
An AG Cup fixture featuring weakened teams is nothing new. The majority of its rounds are played during international breaks.
“We are planning to finish this season in the required manner,” said Mamic. “If we had won this game and qualified for the semi-finals, we will lose in our next game about 10 international players because of the team’s gathering in Thailand.
“I respect championships like the Arabian Gulf Cup. But some teams are losing large numbers of internationals.
“For example, in the first game between us and Al Wahda [in December] we were actually missing 10 players and Wahda missed two.
“For me, this tournament is my last when ranking the importance of the four tournaments that Al Ain participates in this season.”
Al Ain remain top of the Arabian Gulf League. They will also look to build on last week’s creditable, opening goalless draw at Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal when they host Michael Laudrup’s Al Rayyan in Group D of Asia’s premier club competition on Tuesday.
“The fact that the outcome of the Wahda game is bad will have no effect, at all, next Tuesday at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium,” said Mamic. “The team will be at full readiness for the second game in the AFC Champions League.”