Asian competition is now key for the Pride of Abu Dhabi after a miserable defence of their Arabian Gulf League-crown. Wesley Sneijder’s Al Gharafa were beaten 3-2 in last month’s enlivening Group A-opener to end a 15-match winless spell on the continent, before a profligate display at Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli Jeddah led to a 2-1 defeat.
A double header against pointless and goalless Iranians Tractor Sazi begins on Monday night at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Ten Cate urged his second-placed troops to leave nothing on the table.
“Very important for both teams,” said the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant about the clash.
“For us, an important match to keep participating for top spot and for them to stay in the tournament. It will be very tight. I’ve seen them twice, they’re a good team and I think they were unlucky.
“The game in Qatar [versus Gharafa] was amazing as they were better than their opponent and lost 3-0. It was like us, we were the best team there [at Al Ahli] and lost 2-1.”
Jazira’s cause has not been helped by the suspension of influential Morocco midfielder Mbark Boussoufa. They also lost both group games to Tractor in 2016 by a combined score of 5-0.
📸📸— نادي الجزيرة (@AlJazira_uae) March 3, 2018
فخر أبوظبي يواصل تحضيراته لمواجهة تراكتور سازي في #دوري_أبطال_آسيا
حيث يخوض مهمته الوطنية الثالثة في إستاد محمد بن زايد بأبوظبي الاثنين #مع_الفخر_لأجل_الوطن
Training for @TheAFCCL match this Monday in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium pic.twitter.com/9RAp3HoXit
The Red Wolves travel to Abu Dhabi on the back of their own domestic travails. They currently sit 10th in the Persian Gulf Pro League – a descent from 2017/18’s third.
“It will not be the end [if we don’t win], but it will be really difficult to qualify for the next round,” said coach Ertugrul Saglam, an ex-Turkey international striker.
“We don’t have to win this match, but we have to take four points from these next two games.”
Persepolis v Al Wasl
Persepolis boss Branko Ivankovic has warned pointless Al Wasl they plan to exorcise their pain from derby defeat when the sides meet in the 2018 AFC Champions League.
The Persian Gulf Pro League holders went down 1-0 on Thursday against Esteghlal. They now face a weakened Wasl team in Group C, for whom stars such as Fabio De Lima haven’t travelled.
“It’s natural that failure in a derby is never good,” said ex-Al Wahda boss Ivankovic. “But this game is more important than the derby.”
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