Last week’s clash of the domestic double winners at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium proved surprisingly one sided as the visitors stormed to a stunning 4-2 first-leg advantage.
A huge task now awaits the 2002/03 winners on Tuesday at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium to overturn this yawning deficit against rampant opponents who were undefeated in the QNB Stars League, have won all seven Asian fixtures and are on a 19-match winning streak in all competitions.
“Despite the poor score in Al Ain, our chances remain in the competition for qualification to the next stage,” declared ex-Croatia defender Mamic, whose team must score a minimum three times.
“All possibilities are always open in football. It does not recognise talk of the impossible.
“We have to deal realistically and fight to the last minute.”
The Boss will be without Brazilian forward Caio after his late dismissal for kicking out. But productive midfielder Hussein El Shahat – snubbed this week for Egypt’s World Cup 2018 squad – and veteran UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem return from suspension.
Mamic was particularly pleased to see January addition El Shahat back.
He said: “Every player has his style and there is no specific player who will replace Caio. But my team has a good number of players and we will not forget that we will see the return of Hussein El Shahat.”
A pair of Arabian Gulf League sides have made contact with Pierluigi Tami and are trying to lure the respected coach, who is expected to be a contender if Switzerland split with Vladimir Petkovic after World Cup 2018.
Tami, 56, is lauded for his work at several junior national teams. This includes guiding the likes of Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri and Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer to runners-up at the 2011 European Under-21 Championship.
The Italy-born, Swiss national is available for work after a second spell at Lugano – fearsome ex-Argentine, Real Madrid and Inter Milan centre-back Water Samuel was assistant – ended with his premature dismissal last month after a drastic drop in form.
But a reputation for establishing sides with thorough defensive organisation has made him a man in demand. Beyond the UAE and his native country, the Switzerland No2 from 2006-15 is also wanted by several Bundesliga sides.
Tami remains open to the overtures from the unnamed AGL outfits.
Current available posts for 2018/19 in the Emirates’ top flight include promoted outfits Bani Yas and Fujairah.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club are also in the market for a new leader – believed to be Al Ittihad’s Jose Luis Sierra.
Meanwhile, Fujairah have snapped up Al Shabab Riyadh forward Mohamed Benyettou and shown they are wasting no time after a two-year stint away from the top flight ended on Sunday.
Algerian Benyettou, 28, scored 22 times in 57 Saudi Professional League fixtures.
Al Dhafra are expected to imminently announce the capture of 2017/18 Saudi Professional League Coach of the Year Vuk Rasovic, following Al Faisaly’s 3-1 defeat to Al Ittihad in Saturday’s King’s Cup final.
Rasovic, 45, lifted Al Annabi from ninth to sixth during his only full season in charge and earned a first shot at Saudi Arabia’s premier cup competition. Such achievements have made the Germany-born, ex-Yugoslavia defender a wanted man.
He is now expected to succeed Macedonia’s Gjoko Hadzievski at the Arabian Gulf League strugglers.
The Western Knights finished just one point and one place outside the promotion/relegation play-off spots. But they have already vividly detailed their ambition for an improved 2018/19 by winning the race for coveted ex-Al Hilal centre midfielder Nicolas Milesi.
Rasovic won the 2012/13 Serbian Super Liga title at Partizan Belgrade – a club he represented as a player throughout two spells.
One player that he will not be taking charge of is Morocco centre midfielder Adel Hermach.
The 31-year-old has been announced as Ajman’s latest addition as they look to cement their spot in the top flight.
The ex-Al Wahda and Hilal star only played 11 times in the 2017/18 AGL after being dumped halfway through by Dhafra.
Ajman have already recruited prolific winger Vander Vieira from Sharjah.
The Brazilian scored seven times in 18 top-flight matches after his summer recruitment from Cyprus’ APOEL – all from the penalty spot.