Al Ain coach Ivan Leko has been encouraged by his side’s efforts and performances in pre-season so far, although the Croat knows he will not gain a complete perspective of his squad until every player is available.
The Boss drew 0-0 with Saudi Pro League side Al Fateh in Slovenia on Tuesday in what the former Club Brugge boss has described as a beneficial summer – even though it has been disrupted by playing only two games thus far as their second was abandoned due to cold weather.
Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane and Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba made their first appearances for the club, but have only been with their new team-mates for a matter of days.
And Leko confirmed that the players must continue to work during this crucial period of preparation ahead of the new season.
“More training is needed to achieve the required level of togetherness,” said Leko, who replaced Juan Carols Garrido, the Spaniard struggling after the departure of Zoran Mamic midway through last season.
“The main objective of the friendly matches is to see how players apply for training in such confrontations and I have felt good returns from everyone.
“It is certain that the lack of international players joining the start of the preparation period, in addition to Laba and Meziane only joining a few days ago, is a factor that leads us to redouble our efforts. Because our actual training begins when the team is complete.
“And we will work together in a strong and serious way to achieve our goals in the new season.”
Veteran defender Ismail Ahmed, meanwhile, is similarly encouraged by what he has seen in camp and during the games so far.
“We came out with the desired gains from the friendly,” said the UAE international, who celebrated his 36th birthday at the beginning of July.
“The game was good and gave everyone a good boost, especially as the second friendly match was not completed due to weather conditions accompanied by cold weather. The encounter was both technical and physical.
“I would like to thank all my colleagues and the coach and I wish success to all of us in achieving the required gains during this important stage of preparation for the new season.
“I believe that the team’s performance indicators are positive so far and by the end of the pre-season period, I hope that the team reaches the required readiness for the new season ahead.”
Leko has a big task ahead of him as the Boss look to arrest the slide that set in last term, resulting in a fourth-placed finish in the Arabian Gulf League and a group stage exit from the AFC Champions League.
But the summer has been positive in terms of business – with prolific Brazilian forward Caio Canedo the standout acquisition from fellow UAE side Al Wasl.
Both Laba and Meziane were pursued by Egyptian titans Al Ahly, while midfielders Mohamed Jamal and Mohammed Helal have joined from of Al Jazira and Ajman respectively.
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