Cosmin Olaroiu says 'every game has become more important' as the Pro League leaders close in for a 10th crown.
Al Ain coach warns players against complacency in title run-in
Cosmin Olaroiu has conceded that the pressure is mounting at Al Ain as the league leaders close in on their 10th title.
Baniyas, on the other hand, go into tonight's game with expectations in the Pro League lifted from their shoulders and they are even ready to rest key players ahead of more achievable goals.
Al Ain are six points clear at the top of the table with six games left but Olaroiu says "nothing is guaranteed" in football.
"We are in a very critical phase in the league and every game has become more important for us than the previous ones," the Romanian said.
"The players have a bigger responsibility in each and every game until we reach a point when we can say we are the champions. In my book, nothing is won until it is won."
Olaroiu had a word of praise for the Al Ain supporters, saying they had a big influence on the team's victories. "We are very thankful for their fans," he said. "I think they have played a bigger role outside the pitch by being behind us where ever we play. They have contributed immensely in our victories."
Olaroiu was also wary of Gabriel Calderon's idea to rest some players on two yellow cards to save them for next week's President's Cup semi-final match against Al Wahda.
The Baniyas coach is expected to leave out Yousuf Jaber, the UAE international defender, and Ismail Bouzid, the French midfielder, while the injured Spanish playmaker Francisco Yeste remains doubtful.
Olaroiu, however, does not think the absence of the three players will make tonight's opponents any weaker.
"At Baniyas, all the players are strong," he said. "Any of them can link up as a key player on any given day and turn in an extra good performance. They are a strong team and we expect a strong game."
Al Ain and Baniyas played out a 2-2 draw earlier in the season.
But Olaroiu said: "This game will be different. The tactic will be different from when we played with them before and also there will be different players from both teams. All we can say is that we are ready for them and our focus is on getting the three points."
Al Ain will be without Fares Juma, the defender who serves a one-match ban for three yellow cards. Musallem Fayez may take his place while Ismail Ahmed, who returned to action after more than five months spent recovering from knee surgery in the reserve league last week, is also available.
Baniyas, the runners up last year, are eighth in the table, 20 points behind Al Ain, so their emphasis for the season has switched from the league to their Asian Champions League away match against Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and the President's Cup semi-final.
Calderon said that was the most "logical thing" when there was an opportunity to win a major title.
"We have a few players with two yellow cards and we will not risk them to miss out in a semi-final game," he said.
"Still we will play to win, as always. Al Ain will not have it easy because we go in to this game without any pressure.
"And those who may get an opportunity to play will give more on the pitch."
5.50pm, Abu Dhabi Sports