After their loss at home in the opening game, Al Ahli manager Ivan Hasek is determined to bounce back against Saba Battery this afternoon. The Red Knights, playing at home, went down 2-1 to Pakhtakor last Tuesday, while the Iranians snatched a point in Saudi Arabia against Al Hilal. "We lost three points at home and it will not be easy against Saba Battery," said coach Ivan Hasek. "We know that, but we dropped points at home and we need to get them away now. We cannot afford to lose this time.
"We have closed the file on the Pakhtakor loss and, after the poor show in the first game, the players are determined to show their true potential and they have the opportunity to make amends." Ahli will start the match, scheduled to kick-off at 3.30pm at Saba's Yadgar-e-Emam Stadium in the ancient city of Qom, without their talismanic striker Faisal Khalil, who has been left at home due to injury.
Saba, on the other hand, will be strengthened by the return of defender Sheys Rezaei, midfielder Mohammad Nouri and striker Gholam Rezaei from national duty after Friday's 1-0 win over Kenya in a friendly. Sharjah entertain the Qatari side Al Gharafa this evening (ko 7.15pm), with both sides having lost their opening matches. Tony Oliveira's side went down 3-1 to Piroozi in Iran and Marcos Paqueta's Gharafa were beaten by the same score at home by the Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab.
Oliveira feels his team can maximise the home advantage. "My players were nervous at the start of the match with Piroozi, who scored three first-half goals," he said. "But we came back after the break to score the only goal in the second half. And playing at home should give my players the confidence." The Brazilian forward Anderson Barbosa has not recovered from injury and will miss his second game along with the veteran midfielder Abdulaziz al Anbari and Abdulla Suhail.