Mamic insists Esteghlal test will be very different to previous Iran encounters

Matt Jones - Editor 01:35 22/05/2017
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Al Ain players celebrate a goal against Zob Ahan

Zoran Mamic insists he has not picked the brains of compatriot and Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic ahead of Al Ain’s trip to fellow Iranian side Esteghlal in the first leg of the AFC Champions League last 16 tonight.

Croatian Mamic will hope to erase the disappointment of missing out on ACL qualification for 2018 after the Boss finished a disappointing fourth in the Arabian Gulf League by taking a step towards this year’s final with victory in Tehran.

But after facing Iranian opposition in the group stages where they played Zob Ahan home and away, Mamic revealed he did not seek any tips on the Red Army from his fellow countryman.

“The truth is I did not talk with the Persepolis coach about Esteghlal,” said the 45-year-old. “There is no need to talk with any coach to know anything about the opposing team.”

Mamic, who replaced another Croatian, Zlatko Dalic, in the Garden City in January, also quashed suggestions the two matches against Zob in Group C would have any bearing on the two-legged tie against Esteghlal.

“The Zob Ahan games are in the past and we do not look at the games that have ended,” he added.

“The two games and this game will be completely different. We are in a different stage of the competition and that fact confirms that Esteghlal are stronger than Zob Ahan.

“There is no resemblance between the two teams and our focus is currently on Esteghlal.”

Mamic also added that his players will not be overawed by the cavernous Azadi Stadium in Tehran, which has a capacity of 100,000, and believes they will thrive on what is expected to be a vibrant atmosphere.

He said: “We will play the challenge ahead of us at their home and among their legions of fans. The Azadi is a wonderful stadium and we always enjoy playing in such a massive atmosphere because it stimulates our players to give and show their best in the field.”

Esteghlal counterpart Alireza Mansourian described the visit of the Boss as a “big test” but says his players are relishing their task of keeping the Iran flag flying in Asia.

“I do love the game. Heavy games like this, I welcome them,” said the 45-year-old, who confirmed he will be without experienced midfielder Omid Ebrahimi.

“I have a big test tomorrow. Tomorrow our young people are trying to keep the Iranian flag burning in the competition.

“Al Ain are well known and have a good team and we know their strengths and weaknesses. We have analysed our opponents and we will try to flatten this opponent but we will have to take care and be totally ready for this match.”

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