x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Ain's Asian Champions League hopes hang by a thread

Only a win against Hangzhou Greentown will do for Alexandre Gallo, the Al Ain coach.

Al Ain, in white, know anything other than three points tonight would spell the end of their ACL campaign.
Al Ain, in white, know anything other than three points tonight would spell the end of their ACL campaign.

AL AIN // Alexandre Gallo, the Al Ain coach, believes his side will have no chance of progressing beyond the group stage in the Asian Champions League (ACL) if they do not win tonight's match against Hangzhou Greentown.

The 2003 champions are bottom of Group F with just a point from three matches.

Al Ain went down 4-0 to Nagoya Grampus in Japan in their rescheduled fixture six days later having been beaten 1-0 by South Korea's FC Seoul in the opener at home.

"This is the most important game for us because our chances of progressing beyond the group stage will depend on the outcome of this match," said Gallo ahead of tonight's match at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed stadium.

"It is possibly our last chance if we want to stay in the competition. We respect Hangzhou but we'll try everything to win. We hope to play a balanced game because Hangzhou are very dangerous on the counter attack.

"We had a good first game against them. We created a lot of chances but couldn't convert them to goals. This has been an area of concern, but with a little bit of luck, which we didn't have in the two previous matches, we can do it."

Gallo, who replaced the Emirati coach Abdulhameed al Mishtiki in January, said his team is more organised and improving with each game.

Waleed Salem, the Al Ain goalkeeper, who has yet to play a competitive game since undergoing surgery on his left knee, said the players were determined to keep their ACL campaign alive.

"The players want to do their best to win full points," he said. "As for me, I am ready. It is now for the coach to decide when he wants to play me. I was out for almost a year with a knee injury and I feel I have fully recovered."

Gallo said: "Waleed is one of the most experienced players and I am happy with his progress. However, he still needs more time to come in to a big game.

"He has travelled with us and that's a good sign. So he is ready if we need him as cover."

Wu Jingui, the Hangzhou coach, will send his side out looking for all three points, which would improve his team's chances of progressing to the second round in their debut season in the ACL.

"It is a very crucial match for both teams and we too want to win full points. We are in a good position and a win will definitely improve our chances for the second round."

Du Wei, the Hangzhou captain, said: "Playing home or away doesn't give much advantage for us or for them. Maybe, the home side may enjoy having the crowd behind them, but that won't bother us.

"It has been a long and tiring journey for us but we are not here to make that an excuse. Al Ain had to go through the same when they travelled to China. We are professional players and need to adapt quickly."

Also tonight, First Division side Emirates, the only team from the UAE to win a game in this season's ACL, host Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab.

apassela@thenational.ae

Al Ain v Hangzhou, 7.30pm, Aljazeera Sport +5