x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Al Ain must ‘rise again’ in order to leapfrog Sharjah

Al Ain manager Quique Sanchez Flores is warning his squad to respect their opposition as champions can climb to third with victory at home, writes Amith Passela.

Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman, left, and Sharjah’s Abdulla Darwish will do battle again on Friday night. Mostafa Reda / Al Ittihad
Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman, left, and Sharjah’s Abdulla Darwish will do battle again on Friday night. Mostafa Reda / Al Ittihad

Al Ain may hold a psychological edge on Friday night over Sharjah when they meet for the second time in 10 days.

The champions thrashed Sharjah 4-1 in the President’s Cup on December 10. They played to a 2-2 draw in their first meeting of the season, in the league cup on October 10.

Sharjah’s confidence will not be all that low, however, after bouncing back to win their next league game, against Baniyas 1-0 five days ago. They have also been a rejuvenated side having returning to the top flight this season following relegation in 2011 for the second time in the history of the club.

A point separates the teams in the table and Al Ain will be hoping to move above Sharjah to take third place after their home match tonight at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.

Al Ain followed up their President’s Cup triumph with a 5-2 league victory over Al Shaab.

“Obviously, we want to take this winning momentum forward regardless with whom we play,” said Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ain manager.

“The cup is completely different to the league, and above all Sharjah have always been a big team with a rich history behind them.

“This is a fresh game and our team will require huge concentration and will have to rise again with another good performance to meet their challenge. It is a key match.

“Our preparation for this game has been to maintain the physical balance of the players because there wasn’t much time between the last two games.

“The players actually are happy from the results they achieved from the two previous matches.

“We are dealing with professional players so we don’t have to constantly remind them of their mental attitude and meeting the demands of playing three games in two weeks.

“I have always reminded them to respect the opponent.”

Sanchez Flores will have his full squad at his disposal, apart perhaps from the left-back Khalid Abdulrahman, who may have to pass a fitness test today.

“He complained of some pain and didn’t take part in the training. It is not a serious issue and we will know if he will be ready or not before the match,” Sanchez Flores said.

“I am fortunate to have a good, strong squad of 24 players always ready to fill in the voids left by the injured players.

“So, all is well with regards to our preparation and looking forward to a good result.”