Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu is expecting a fervent atmosphere and a fired-up opponent when his side face namesake Al Ahli Jeddah in Saudi Arabia tonight.
The Red Knights are likely to encounter a red-hot atmosphere inside the 62,000 capacity King Abdullah Sports City, especially after Christian Gross’ men suffered a painful 3-2 defeat to rivals Al Hilal in the King’s Cup final last Thursday.
But Olaroiu says his players will not cower as they look to gain a first-leg advantage in their opening AFC Champions League last 16 tie.
“I expect the Saudi Al Ahli players to have plenty of incentives to win after the loss in the King’s Cup final,” said the 47-year-old Romanian.
“We expect a large atmosphere, but this will not put a strain on us.
“Everyone knows the extent of the power of Al Ahli Jeddah both locally and on the continent. In the match tomorrow we go into it with high concentration and in search of a victory to facilitate our mission of qualifying for the next round in the second leg in Dubai.”
Olaroiu’s preparations for the game have been marred by a series of mergers between UAE teams this week, including that of his own club who will join forces with Al Shabab and Dubai CSC for next season and change their name to Shabab Al Ahli Club Dubai.
But Olaroiu insists this will not deter him or his players from eying victory in Jeddah.
“We are always looking for a win and a draw is not an option in my mind and I do not play for it never,” said the man who led the Saudi Arabia national side to a group stage exit at the 2015 Asian Cup.
“My Knights came through to provide strong levels in difficult games recently and I will wait for them to do so in front of the Saudi Al Ahli fans.”
Their opponents could be without Syrian sensation Omar Al Somah – who has scored a superb 32 goals in 32 games this season – after picking up a knee injury in defeat to Hilal.
But Olaroiu is certain Ahli will still be a tough opponent.
“They are a very tough and strong team that has players with high techniques
“They are able to compensate for the absence of Al Somah although he is very much an influential player on this team.”
Gross remained coy on whether 27-year-old Al Somah would play and instead chose to focus on earning a first leg advantage.
“We will decide on the possibility of playing Omar and whether it is essential or not that he play,” said the 62-year-old former Tottenham manager, who hopes his team’s fans will create a thrilling atmosphere.
“I hope to achieve a good win in the first leg and I hope the crowd turnout for a special match. We are ready to achieve victory and make the masses happy.”
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