Home team go into game with 2-1 lead but coach warns tired players to show desire to beat Walter Zenga’s Al Jazira side for place in Asian Champions League last eight.
Attack Zlatko Dalic’s buzzword for Al Ain
ABU DHABI // Zlatko Dalic said his only focus is on Al Ain’s immediate engagement as his team prepare for a crowded fixture list over the next five days that sees them take part in three games.
The Garden City club face Al Jazira in the second leg of the Asian Champions League (ACL) round of 16 on Tuesday night at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. After that is a friendly against the English Premier League champions Manchester City on Thursday, before the small matter of the President’s Cup final on Sunday against Al Ahli is decided.
“At this moment, we are not thinking about anything other than the game against Jazira,” Dalic said as he prepared his team to defend the 2-1 lead from last week’s first-leg meeting.
“Jazira are trailing and we would expect them to play an offensive game, as they have no other choice than win to keep their hopes alive in this competition. Our approach, as always, would be to win.”
Dalic rested most of his starting 11 in their final Arabian Gulf League Arabian Gulf League game on Friday, a 1-0 win over Al Wasl, to keep them fresh for Tuesday night’s assignment.
“We are coming towards the end of a very hard season and we have a few tired players to deal with,” Dalic said.
“This is a bit of a worry, but I am sure the players realise how important this game is for us.
“It is a decisive match and we trust our players to please the fans by winning the match and qualifying to round of eight in the ACL.”
Dalic said he expects Jazira to attack them from the first whistle, but the Croatian will not set his team up to invite pressure and will instead take the game to Walter Zenga’s side.
“We won’t play a defensive match, because winning always comes by attacking,” he said.
“We forget the first-leg win and start the match as if we were playing our first match. We will attack because it is necessary to win and qualify.
“I trust all the players and they can achieve the objectives of our fans. I know Jazira will also attack and fight to compensate the loss in the first leg, but we will fight back too as all of the players are ready and we don’t miss any of them.
“Al Ain won’t play a first half and relax in the second one.
“We will fight from beginning to end. We expect it to be a tough match but we are fully ready and we know we have only this chance to qualify and we will try everything to win.”
For Jazira, Tuesday night could potentially be their final match of a season in which they finished third in the Arabian Gulf League as well as losing in the final of last month’s Arabian Gulf Cup.
Zenga, their Italian coach, is confident that his side can turn around last week’s 2-1 first-leg deficit and secure a place in the last eight of the continental championship.
“As I had mentioned before, the result will be decided at the end of the next 90 minutes,” Zenga said. “There are no secret recipes but to go out there and play true to our potential.
“We have worked well over the past week and focused on training sessions on how to make best use of the weaknesses of our opponents.”
Zenga rested his entire first-team squad in their 1-0 home win over Sharjah in the final domestic league game to finish third, and possibly earn at least a play-off spot in next year’s ACL.
“We played a good first-leg game but were unlucky not to achieve the desired result,” he said.
“Team spirit within the dressing room is good, and I am very lucky because I own a current group of players that have great potential and a strong personality.
“I know that the stadium will be full and I know well the Al Ain fans will be behind their team, and personally, I like to play in a full stadium, as my players had proved in the ACL games against Esteghlal in Iran, Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia, and Al Rayyan in Qatar.”
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