Ahmed Barman insists personal glory does not concern him, only collective success with his team-mates as Al Ain go in search of a record-extending 13th UAE top-flight crown.
UAE international Barman, 24, has been an almost ever-present for Zoran Mamic’s side in a near flawless campaign that has seen them lose just once in 20 league games.
Barman has played 18 of those games in the heart of Al Ain’s midfield, but he has been overlooked for the end of season AGL awards and does not feature on the 10-man shortlist for the Best Emirati Player – which does include team-mates Rayan Yaslam, Omar Abdulrahman, Ismail Ahmed and Mohanad Salem.
But ahead of a pivotal clash with the fourth-placed Blue Wave who have lost just one league game since Serbian coach Ivan Jovanovic returned for a second stint in January, Barman says he is more interested on lifting the league title as opposed to individual accolades.
“I think there are evaluation committees better to ask this question,” said Barman when asked in the pre-match press conference whether he was irked by not being nominated for the Best Emirati Player award.
“The truth is every player wishes to enter the competition for the end of season awards, but I am satisfied and happy at the level I am at with my team, thanks to the guidance of the coach, and all I want is to help my fellow players and compete for the championship.
“I am very happy to compete for Al Ain for the league prizes and any personal award would come second compared to being crowned a league title winner with the club.”
Mamic, meanwhile, insists he won’t be thinking at all of winning the title on Saturday.
“I do not think at all about the celebrations as much as our focus on providing the level which leads us to win the game,” said the Croatian.
Despite the carrot of winning a first major title of his tenure and a maiden trophy since the 2015 Arabian Gulf Super Cup dangling in front of him, Mamic knows his side face a tricky task, with Nasr aiming to climb into the coveted third automatic AFC Champions League slot with victory.
“We are well aware our next game against Al Nasr will not be easy, especially since they have been playing at a high level in their last seven league games. I think that if they started the season at the same level they would be on top of the table.”
Barman reiterated the threat posed by the Blue Wave and their coach Ivanovic, who replaced former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli – who had ironically been brought in to replace him in October 2016 – at the beginning of the year.
“The opponents have been good for the past seven rounds, but we are required to be strong enough to achieve the best result with respect to our ambitions, regardless of the pressures we face,” added Barman.
“We are certainly going to the opposing team’s stadium with the ambition of winning and every game we consider as a final. We seek to show our best and hope to perform in line with our personal ambitions and satisfy the fans of the club.”
Jovanovic said he expects a great game between the two rivals, with both having huge motivation for victory.
“Without a doubt there will be a strong and enjoyable match for the two teams as well as the fans, as each team has a lot of motivation to win,” said the 55-year-old.
“We will enter the game to win to maintain third place qualify for the AFC Champions League.”
Nasr were usurped of third-place on Friday following Bur Dubai rivals Al Wasl’s 2-0 win over Hatta.
Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic has warned his side they “have not achieved anything” yet as they look to successfully complete the second part of a pivotal week by adding the Arabian Gulf League’s crown to progression in the 2018 AFC Champions League.
The Boss emphatically made the continental round of 16 for the fifth year in a row when they thrashed Al Rayyan 4-1 during Monday’s one-sided eliminator from Group D. Next up is their pursuit of domestic dominance.
Victory at third-placed Al Nasr on Saturday will guarantee a record-extending 13th top-flight crown and end a trophy drought stretching back to 2015’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup.
“We are looking forward to winning the league title because we have not achieved anything this season,” said Mamic, who joined in February 2017. “After that, we’ll think about the President’s Cup and then we’ll go back to focusing on the AFC Champions League.”
The goals at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium came from Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat’s tap-in, a fierce free-kick from exiled UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman – who is now the club’s joint-top scorer in the ACL with legendary former centre forward Asamoah Gyan on 18 strikes – plus a pair of predatory finishes from Sweden No9 Marcus Berg.
Veteran Qatar target man Sebastian Soria produced a late consolation from close range.
Al Ain roared into the AFC Champions League’s knockout stages for a fifth-successive year after they thrashed Al Rayyan 4-1 in their qualification shootout.
The sides met at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in the knowledge that only victory would send the hosts through at the expense of the Arabian Gulf League’s champions-elect when Group D reached its crescendo.
This scenario caused no problems for the visitors, whose recovery from drawing their opening four matches is now complete. Goals from Hussein El Shahat, Omar Abdulrahman and Marcus Berg (2) followed, before Qatar veteran striker Sebastian Soria struck a late consolation during a surprisingly one-sided contest.
With pool winners Esteghlal of Iran also defeating eliminated 2017 runners-up Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 1-0 on Monday, these results guaranteed second spot for the Boss.
They now face the daunting task in next month’s round of 16 of meeting runaway 2017/18 QNB Stars League victors Al Duhail, who are aiming to complete a complete set of six Group B-triumphs when they welcome Al Wahda on Tuesday.
Bookings in Qatar for UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem and Egypt midfielder El Shahat mean they will miss May 8’s opener at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium when Asia’s premier competition resumes.
Al Ain got off to the perfect start when Brazilian forward Caio’s shot at the end of a driving run was spilled to El Shahat. He effortlessly slotted in a 10th goal in 17 appearances since his January switch from Misr Lel-Makkasa.
Even better was to follow just before the hour mark.
Amoory rocketed in a stunning free-kick to double the advantage and Sweden No9 Berg produced a nerveless low strike from Japan utility man Tsukasa Shiotani’s smart centre.
The Sweden No9 then moved onto 27 goals from 29 games in his debut campaign with another sharp finish, prior to Soria’s immaterial tap-in during the final throes.
AL WASL 1-2 NASAF
Al Wasl guaranteed they would be the only team in the 2018 AFC Champions League to lose all six pool matches when Nasaf fought back from a goal down to defeat them in Dubai.
The Cheetahs gained hope of salvaging some pride from Group C when Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima converted Khalil Khamis’ cross.
But the game was taken away from them either side of half-time at Zabeel Stadium. Sharof Mukhitdinov equalised with a thunderous half-volley, before Bobir Abdixolikov slotted home after an excellent solo run and sharp finish from 20 yards.