Coach Cosmin Olaroiu is determined to consign last term’s miserable Arabian Gulf League to the past when the new season kicks off Wednesday night against Fujairah.
The Red Knights came into 2014/15 as dominant champions but ended up seventh, a measly return of 35 goals contributing to their decline. Positives were gained in reaching the President’s Cup final and the AFC Champions League quarter-finals, the first leg being played at Iran’s Naft Tehran next Wednesday. And speaking before the visit of the Wolves to Rashid Stadium, Olaroiu was confident a squad now boasting Benfica striker Lima will ensure this year will be different.
“Last season in the league we finished in the position we finished, I do not want to continue about this subject – that is in the past,” the 46-year-old said.
“We played the final of the President’s Cup [a shootout loss to Al Nasr] and made the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League – our most-important target.
“When you are in Al Ahli, you have to win each game and competition. We know this and I am very confident this year will be different than last year, in regards to local competitions.”
Ahli enjoyed a successful pre-season camp in Italy, which included a 1-1 draw with a strong Internazionale XI. But the Romanian boss refuses to get carried away ahead of a tough opener against ambitious opponents who have added Serbian
SuperLiga top scorer Patrick Friday Eze and are aiming for the top six in their second top-flight campaign in a row.
“The Ahli players made big efforts throughout pre-season,” Olaroiu said. “Now, we have to concentrate against Fujairah. We had a difficult game against them in the early rounds last season [a 1-1 draw]. We have to respect them.”
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The only selection worry for Olaroiu could come in defence.
Full-back Essa Santo is definitely out with a serious knee injury, while UAE colleague Abdulaziz Sanqour could feature after a minor knee problem of his own. The Romanian said: “Santo will not be able to play, he is still in rehabilitation. Sanqour started training in the camp.
“Inshallah, we do not have any other problems.”
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