ABU DHABI // Baniyas need just a point from tonight's home time against Pakhtakor to clinch a place alongside Al Jazira in the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League (ACL).
Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas coach, credits a 1-1 away draw against the Uzbek side in their second game for giving them the belief that they could reach the last 16.
"We were making our debut in the ACL and didn't have much hope in going beyond the group stage when we began in this competition," the Argentine said.
"Not anymore. And after analysing all the games it doesn't surprise me anymore we are in a position from which we can reach the last 16 stage. We played a good first game against Pakhtakor to return with a point under freezing weather conditions and that result provided the confidence."
Baniyas have lost only once in five games, and that was 1-0 away to the Saudi giants Al Ittihad, who lead Group B.
"Baniyas have played consistently well in this competition and deserve to be in the last 16," Calderon said. "We need one more good effort to achieve that goal and I am confident."
Dejan Durdevic, the Serbian who took charge of Pakhtakor in December, is concerned about playing in heat and humidity.
"We have come here to win and we are quite confident," he said. "If there was one thing that would be against us is the harsh humid weather in Abu Dhabi.
"It was raining when we left Tashkent but we will try to counter this by applying a ploy to conserve our energies for the entire 90 minutes."
Calderon is not taking the weather into consideration.
"We had to play the first game in more difficult conditions," he said.
"It was snowing and freezing, and we had to train on sand for two days. Yet we managed to play a good game. So, I would like to think Uzbekistan can also play better under humid conditions. They have also more experience than us and for sure they have come with only one objective and that is to win. And we are ready for them."
Also tonight, Caio Junior, the Al Jazira coach, will play his full-strength team, barring those with two yellow cards, away against Al Rayyan of Qatar. The Abu Dhabi club have an unassailable lead at the top of Group A but Caio Junior said. "The result may not be relevant to us but it is critical for the other teams. Therefore we want to play the best available team and try to win."
If the Tehran side Esteghlal lose away to Nasaf Qarshi, Rayyan can finish second by defeating Jazira.
Last night, a young Al Shabab team lost 2-1 to Persepolis, a result that confirmed the Tehran club's place in the last 16. Essa Mohammed scored the goal for Shabab, who finished bottom of Group D.
Al Nasr beat Lekhwiya in Qatar in the Group C dead rubber as neither team could qualify. The home side led in the 39th minute with a goal from Lassina Diaby, but goals in the 56th and 58th minute, from Amara Diane and Humaid Abdullahmeant the Dubai team collected the three points.
In the all-UAE quarter-final of the GCC Clubs' Championship last night, Al Wasl beat Al Wahda 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.