x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Al Ain look to consoldiate Pro League lead with win over Baniyas

Cosmin Olaroiu believes tonight's encounter with their high-flying opponents will prove a crucial one in Al Ain's bid to retain the Pro League title.

Al Ain coach Cosmin Olaroiu.
Al Ain coach Cosmin Olaroiu.

ABU DHABI // After losing 6-3 to Al Ahli in their opening game, Al Ain have gone on a nine-game unbeaten run, winning eight of those matches.

Tonight they face perhaps the biggest challenge yet to their undefeated run when they travel to Baniyas, who are hot on their heels in the table and have a 100 per cent home record in five games.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, believes this is a pivotal period for his club, with games against Al Wahda and Al Nasr up next.

"At this point, this is a very crucial match for us to be in a good position at the end of the first half of the league," said the Romanian, whose team have a three-point lead over Baniyas, with Nasr a point further back.

"A win for us will consolidate our position and any other result will allow the chasing pack to close in on us."

Olaroiu will have a full squad at his disposal. He thinks the mental side of the match could be crucial.

"Our game plan would be the same, tactically and physically, which is to win," he said. "However, we have been working on the player's mental preparation ahead of this game.

"The mental toughness could prove the decisive factor in this game because both teams play at a high level, technically.

Baniyas "play a fast-pace game and they have players to match that style".

He added: "For sure it is going to be a very strong and entertaining game with both teams playing for the three points."

Baniyas will be without Yousuf Jaber, the captain, who serves a one-match ban for three yellow cards, and Amer Abdulrahman is doubtful as he recovers from an injury.

Jozef Chovanec, the Baniyas coach, said: "We have a great opportunity to draw level with Al Ain and we will try to go all out to win the three points."

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