Bani Yas make enquiry for Aston Villa's Charles N'Zogbia

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N'Zogbia hasn't featured for Villa so far this season.

Bani Yas have turned to Aston Villa outcast Charles N’Zogbia as they bid to end their exhaustive search for a new winger.

N’Zogbia, 29, has fallen out of favour with the Premier League strugglers and has not been named in a matchday squad by boss Tim Sherwood so far this season. The situation has seen the Sky Blues make an enquiry about his services, also expressing a willingess to pay a transfer fee.

The France international has one year left on his contract signed in July 2011 following a reported £9.5 million (Dh54.3m) switch from Wigan Athletic. The Midlanders are keen to shed N’Zogbia from their wage bill and are willing to do a deal, if the player – who has scored four goals in 77 top-flight appearances for Villa – can be convinced to depart for the Arabian Gulf League.

Bani Yas have one spot open in their four-player foreign quota after deciding Spanish playmaker Joan Verdu is surplus to requirements.

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They began the summer by tabling an ambitious contract offer to Brazil forward Robinho prior to his move to Chinese Super League-giants Guangzhou Evergrande, later agreeing a fee and personal terms with Jires Kembo Ekoko this month only for the Al Ain star to snub them in favour of Al Nasr.

Luis Garcia’s men – who began their AGL campaign with a 2-0 victory against Al Shaab last Thursday – have also made their interest known in Al Ahli wide man Oussama Assaidi. 

N’Zogbia would complete an impressive new foreign quartet, already containing Australia midfielder Mark Milligan, Algeria forward Ishak Belfodil and ex-Celta Vigo target man Joaquin Larrivey.

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Al Ahli’s confidence never been higher – Habib Fardan

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In great form: Habib Fardan (l).

Al Ahli’s merciless 8-1 dismantling of Fujairah has ensured they are riding the crest of a wave heading into tonight’s historic AFC Champions League quarter-final date, according to midfielder Habib Fardan.

The Red Knights have travelled to the Iranian capital for the first leg at Naft Tehran full of confidence after they began their Arabian Gulf League-campaign in emphatic style last Wednesday.

This has provided the perfect warm-up for the continental competition’s resumption with Ahli eyeing more goals at the Azadi Stadium.

“We did well in this game [against Fujairah], with many positive things,” 24-year-old UAE regular Fardan said. “It is the best thing for us.

“All our focus now goes on the AFC Champions League. 

“For us, it is a big motivation bef-ore this game. We should play in the same way [at Naft], with the same focus and performance. I think we can do a great job there.”

Coach Cosmin Olaroiu saw his star-studded attack in vibrant form last week. 

Ahli winger Ismail Al Hammadi got a predatory hat-trick, front man Lima got a debut brace, Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro also helped himself to a pair and on-song striker Ahmed Khalil produced an excellent individual strike.

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Fardan believes this show of force provided a useful boost to Ahli’s hopes against the Black Cats.

He said: “We took so many positive things from this game. It is good they [the attackers] all scored this game.

“It will give them more motivation. For us, it is very important for them to score for the team.”

The Red Knights made the short flight across the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, keen to get a positive result to take back to Rashid Stadium on September 16.

“Naft are a good team, well org-anised with many quality players,” Fardan added. “It will be a tough game.

“We have been given more information by the coach [Olaroiu] this week to get to know them.”

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Olaroiu urges Ahli to play for win against Naft

Matt Jones 26/08/2015
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Red Knights march on: Al Ahli.

Cosmin Olaroiu has stressed the importance of scoring an away goal in Iran as Al Ahli try to put one foot into the AFC Champions League semi-finals.

Ahli take on Naft Tehran in the first leg of the quarter-finals as the sole UAE team left in the competition and appearing in the knockout rounds for the first time. 

For Ahli, the competition provided some welcome respite from a dismal 2014/15 domestic campaign, which saw them meekly surrender their Arabian Gulf League title to Al Ain.

The Red Knights, however, head into the first instalment of their last eight clash buoyed by an 8-1 thrashing of Fujairah on the opening day of the new AGL season, and head coach Olaroiu is again hoping his team can find the net tonight.

“It’s a game of 180 minutes. We have to be careful and take into consideration there is a second game, but we play any game to win and of course the most important thing will be to score,” said the Romanian last night.

“We expect a difficult match and we hope to get the result that will help in the second game.”

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Naft have made a poor start to their own domestic campaign, drawing three and losing one of their first four Persian Gulf Pro League games – although Olaroiu is not reading too much into that.

“They have made some changes, have clear tactics and a way to play and do it well. We expect Naft to play better than they did in their first games,” added the 46-year-old.

The Red Knights beat Al Ain in an all-UAE last 16 clash in May on away goals and former Benfica star Lima, who scored two goals in the Fujairah rout on his Ahli debut, is also hoping for a good result in northern Iran.

“I expect a tough game but we are prepared for this match. Our aim is to get a good result and finish the job back home,” said the 32-year-old Brazilian striker.

Naft manager Ali Mansouryan is wary of the threat Ahli present up front, but is hoping a vociferous crowd at the Azadi Stadium will help his team.

“It is a difficult game for us. Al Ahli will play to win and have strong strikers so we have to concentrate,” said the 43-year-old. “We have the fans’ support. Against Ahli Jeddah [in the last 16], 17,000 were in the stadium. 

“It was a positive thing and we hope to see them tonight also.”

There are no injury concerns for Olaroiu, but goalkeeper Majed Nasser is serving a six-match ban following an altercation with a photographer on Ahli’s last visit to Iran against Tractor Sazi in the group stages on match day two.

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