Captain Luis Jimenez is convinced Al Nasr possess the fighting spirit to come through their tricky opening AFC Champions League engagement at Iran’s Sepahan.
The Blue Wave return to action in the continent’s premier club tournament tonight after a three-year hiatus, earned through lifting the 2014/15 President’s Cup.
A politically-charged outing awaits, with Middle Eastern tensions set to guarantee a heated reception at Foolad Shahr Stadium in Isfahan for the Group A-clash.
“It is well known that Iranian clubs are characterised for their fighting spirit and physical strength,” said Chile playmaker Jimenez.
“But this does not prevent us from giving our best and playing for the victory to provide a step in qualification. Our goal is to pass the group and we are very keen to achieve this – so we have to return from Sepahan with a positive result.”
The clubs faced each other in both the 2012 and 2013 editions, Nasr losing all four meetings as they crashed out in the opening phase both times.
Yet Ivan Jovanovic’s side will feel confident of bringing an end to this run, despite winning only one of their last five Arabian Gulf League games as they cling onto third spot.
Reigning Persian Gulf Pro League champions Sepahan are enduring an 11-match winless streak in all competitions, which has seen a shake-up at boardroom level and immense pressure placed upon coach Igor Stimac.
When asked about the possibility of being removed from his position after the match, the former Croatia and West Ham United defender replied: “That is possible but for now there is no reason to think about that.
“Players have full confidence in me and the problems in our club should be resolved internally. Currently, the only way forward is carrying on with the same quality and hoping for a better future.
“This is a big match. We want to get off to a good start in the Champions League.
“It is more than a typical game. The match is about our motivation, honour and team pride.
“We are facing problems but we’ve a great chance of winning. We hope our team will find new hope in the future and leave behind those who disrupt our job.
“We will play against a team which has a good coach and according to analysis, is a coherent team in which each player knows his task.”
A huge financial disparity exists between clubs from the UAE and Iran. Jovanovic was hopeful his foreign quartet of Jimenez, Burkina Faso winger Jonathan Pitroipa, Brazil striker Nilmar and ex-France Under-21 forward Jires Kembo Ekoko will prove the difference.
He said: “I’m very happy that we will compete in one of the best Asian tournaments. We have been drawn against great teams and our goal is to qualify from this group.
“Sepahan is a very good team and we know that tomorrow we’ll have a tough match.
“The four foreign players in our team are the dynamic body of the team.
“They have maintained their physical fitness to be in good condition against Sepahan and stage a good game. We know all of our rivals, but for this game we have a minimal knowledge of Sepahan.”