Al Ain will stick to their guns and utilise the usual “aggressive approach” when they travel to Al Rayyan, despite knowing only defeat will see the Qataris deny them hard-earned progression to the AFC Champions League’s knockout stages for a fifth-successive edition.
The Arabian Gulf League’s champions-elect drew their opening four matches in Group D – including February’s entertaining 1-1 draw with Michael Laudrup’s men at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium – to leave progression up in the air. This was prior to April 2’s rollercoaster 2-1 win against Saudi Arabia nemesis Al Hilal that allowed them come into Monday’s shootout at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium with a critical one-point advantage.
“I respect the ambitions of the opposing team, but I have great confidence in my team,” said coach Zoran Mamic, who will be without banned UAE centre-back Ismail Ahmed and utility midfielder Mohamed Abdulrahman.
“We look forward to a strong and honourable performance that will enable us to achieve the desired result and qualify for the Champions League knockouts.
“It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the world of football, but I would like to assure you that Al Ain always adopts an aggressive approach against all its rivals.”
Rayyan sit a distant third in the QNB Stars League. They defeated Al Ahli Doha 4-1 last week, but this victory came at a cost with 28-goal Morocco marksman Abderrazak Hamdallah coming off in just the 13th minute through injury.
Opposing hot shot Marcus Berg of Sweden demanded his club side show no mercy.
He said: “We are motivated to play and we look forward to putting in a strong performance in which we show our character in front of their supporters and announce our qualification for the next phase of the AFC Champions League.”
AL WASL V NASAF
Deflated Al Wasl have been told pride is on the line when they attempt to avoid becoming the only side to lose all six pool games in the 2018 AFC Champions League.
Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s men have flopped badly upon their return to Asia’s top table after a decade away. Their last Group C match on Monday sees them host fellow eliminated side Nasaf of Uzbekistan.
“My relationship with the players is strong, but they know what makes me happy is fighting on the field,” said the ex-Argentina full-back.
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