Al Ain veteran Ismail Ahmed embraces 'new stage' as managerless side kick-off in President's Cup

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(Twitter/@uaefa_ae).

Al Ain veteran Ismail Ahmed has embraced the start of a “new stage” with ill-suited coach Ivan Leko departing ahead of Monday’s President’s Cup round-of-16 tie versus First Division League-leaders Dibba Al Hisn.

Thursday’s 2-1 home humbling by minnows Al Dhafra pushed the Boss down to fourth in the Arabian Gulf League and hastened the end of the ex-Croatia midfielder’s troubled five-month reign at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. An early banana skin, however, has now presented itself to caretaker Ghazi Fahad.

Dibba boast a two-point advantage in the second division and have their attack marshaled by veteran Brazilian Rodrigo Souza.

“The upcoming confrontation represents an important challenge for the team in a competition precious to us all,” said 36-year-old Ahmed, ahead of the clash at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium.

“The team enters a new stage under the leadership of the Iraqi coach, Ghazi Fahad. We are required to win against Dibba Al Hisn, to reach the quarter-finals of the President’s Cup.

“We should turn the page on the last stage and focus on our upcoming challenges. All the players of the team know they are trusted and the responsibility they have – we ask God Almighty for success.”

Dibba finished a distant fifth last term, yet are undefeated in six league matches in 2019/20.

Coach Sulaiman Al Balooshi will look to well-travelled Brazilian forward Rafael Grampola and Abdullah Al Wahdani, both with two FDL goals, to post a significant threat.

Elsewhere, promoted Hatta will look at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium to take advantage of Sharjah’s recent slips

The AGL leaders have drawn two of their last three top-flight matches.

Fujairah should aim to build on the snapping of a six-match top-flight losing streak when they meet Bani Yas at Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium and Dhafra have some momentum on their side versus Ajman at Al Nahyan Stadium.

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