Zoran Mamic has called on Al Ain to show their fighting spirit as they prepare to enter the lion’s den of Al Hilal’s King Fahd International Stadium looking for the result that will earn them an AFC Champions League semi-final berth.
The scores are evenly poised between two of Asia’s club heavyweights after a 0-0 draw at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium three weeks ago. It was advantage Al Ain after the game after the Boss had played for most of the second half down to 10 men following centre-back Mohanad Salem’s foolish sending-off.
Now Mamic’s men have to negotiate the cauldron-like atmosphere of Hilal’s stronghold in Riyadh – a stadium that holds an intimidating 68,752 fans.
“The game is one of the strongest football matches that Al Ain will have faced in recent years, especially since it combines two big teams,” said the Croat.
“We are required to provide a strong performance and show the spirit of fighting while also displaying high concentration and keeping possession of the ball and not giving any cheap opportunities to the opponents.
“Our goal in the last game was to win but it is not easy to get a positive result, especially after the red card. We will enter the second half of the tie and look forward to achieving a strong result that ensures our qualification for the semi-finals.”
With Salem suspended, fellow UAE defender Ismail Ahmed will come into the centre of defence. The veteran came on after Salem’s dismissal in the first leg, although he probably featured ahead of schedule following knee surgery in the summer.
Hilal coach Ramon Diaz, meanwhile, will be without midfield dynamo Salman Al Faraj, but is hoping the King Fahd International Stadium crowd will be in fine voice to provide a hostile atmosphere.
“We are fully ready for (the) match despite missing some players but we worked very well and have many solutions including the most important solution which is the Al Hilal fans,” the Argentine said.
Diaz began his press conference by praising the Saudi national team after their 1-0 victory the previous week against Japan, which earned them qualification to next year’s World Cup in Russia.
He added: “It will mean the participation of many players of Al Hilal, but the players have professional and good mentalities to forget the celebrations after this achievement and concentrate on the Asian competition with the club.”