2019 AFC Champions League: Troubled Al Ain to do battle with Al Duhail and their superstars

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(Twitter/@alainfcae).

Coach Juan Carlos Garrido will demand another show of unity at divided Al Ain when Rui Faria’s Al Duhail visit for a must-win 2019 AFC Champions League clash.

The troubled Boss sit bottom of a demanding Group C, although a limp campaign gained fresh impetus a fortnight ago at the same opponent when a 2-2 draw was salvaged from two goals down.

BAD VIBES AT THE BOSS

To say the interim period between continental dates has been eventful for Al Ain would be an almighty understatement.

In chronological order, the UAE’s most-decorated club have; produced a record-breaking 4-0 home defeat to mid-table Ajman, a heroic 2-2 draw at unbeaten Arabian Gulf League leaders Sharjah with a youthful side and issued internal bans for forwards Caio and Ruben Ribeiro for their Instagram “clown” jibes at Garrido. Keeping up?

The ex-Villarreal supremo must utilise all his experience to notch a first ACL win against venerable opposition. No small task.

KIDS ARE ALRIGHT?

Garrido has been publicly backed by the 2002/03 winners’ board, despite mutinous sections of the squad holding a contemptuous view of Zoran Mamic’s February replacement.

This war will soon be lost, however, if a four-match winless run is extended on Tuesday at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Selection is key.

Ex-Sporting Lisbon playmaker Ribeiro was not registered for the ACL, so Mali marauder Tongo Doumbia comes in. An easy call.

Does Garrido now stick with kids like unheralded full-back Ali Mohammed who shone at Sharjah, or recall heavyweights like Sweden striker Marcus Berg?

Getting the blend right is essential – and awkward.

DUHAIL’S SHOCK DOWNTURN

Qatar forward Almoez Ali’s historic exploits at Asian Cup 2019, Faria’s January call to take a first managerial post plus the big-money additions of Morocco centre-back Mehdi Benatia and Japan playmaker Shoya Nakajima made Duhail, ostensibly, a team to fear.

Reality, however, has been different. A dreary 3-4-3 formation, painful concession of the Qatar Stars League crown to Xavi’s Al Sadd and a mixed ACL start has followed.

Make no mistake, second-placed Duhail require a result just like Al Ain. An intriguing clash awaits.

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