Al Ahli boss Cosmin Olaroiu has warned his title-winning team they will face a “test of our concentration” when their Arabian Gulf League-defence kicks off against Emirates Club.
The Red Knights are highly fancied to begin 2016/17 with a victory. They come into today’s match in possession of the Arabian Gulf Super Cup after defeating Al Jazira 2-1 on Tuesday, while their imminent opponents are set for a season-long battle against the drop.
For Olaroiu, he demanded that mentality which saw his troops storm to the crown was on show at Rashid Stadium.
He said: “For us, this game is a test of our concentration, in the sense that we have to maintain our humility and deal with the game very seriously.
“It is natural that everybody expects Ahli to win, because this is what we are accustomed to. We also aspire to it.
“We have the mentality we have built in the past and I hope to get a win every time we play, under all circusmstances.”
There is no guarantee the host’s star summer addition Asamoah Gyan will start upon his return to AGL action, after scoring 128 goals in 123 matches at Al Ain from 2011-15.
The Shanghai SIPG loanee was a late substitute in midweek as fellow strikers Lima and Ahmed Khalil excelled in the new 4-4-2 formation.
Meanwhile, Jazira boss Henk ten Cate was looking for a response from his squad versus Al Wasl following their disappointment.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi came off second best during a 10 v 10 contest in Cairo, although the fight exhibited by the President’s Cup holders shows the dramatic improvement since the Dutchman’s December arrival looks set to continue.
“The opening match is one of the most important games of the season, because a win gives the team more confidence and calm,” Ten Cate said. “We had a very good performance in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup and I hope to play well against Al Wasl.”
The fixture marks coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s AGL debut in the other dugout. The Cheetahs come into the match at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium after winning both their Arabian Gulf Cup-clashes.
“Al Jazira is tough team and they have very good midfield and attacking players,” the ex-Argentina and Boca Juniors left-back said. “For me, this match is a good test for my team and what really matters to me is my players.”
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