x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dalic set for difficult Asian Champions League debut with Al Ain

Omar Abdulrahman could return to lineup if he passes fitness test

Al Ain players celebrate after beating Qatar's Lekhwiya 2-1 in their Asian Champions League Group C match on February 26, 2014. Karim Sahib / AFP
Al Ain players celebrate after beating Qatar's Lekhwiya 2-1 in their Asian Champions League Group C match on February 26, 2014. Karim Sahib / AFP

Zlatko Dalic is set for a baptism of fire when Al Ain meet Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia in their second Group C match of the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night.

The Croatian has been at the Garden City club barely a week and first assignments do not come much tougher than facing the two-time ACL winners at the King Abdulaziz Sports City in Mecca.

Dalic’s appointment comes at a time when the coaching carousels set by the clubs in the Arabian Gulf League have proven to be unsuccessful.

Baniyas are a club that have made a managerial change most recently and they remained on three defeats in as many games under Adnan Hamad, the Iraqi who replaced the Uruguayan Jorge Da Silva.

Dalic is in the hot seat after Al Ain terminated the contract of Quique Sanchez Flores despite him leading the team to the President’s Cup final and a winning start in the ACLa 2-1 win over Lekhwiya of Qatar at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

The club management insisted poor results in the Arabian Gulf League were the reasons for parting ways with the Spaniard, with the two-time defending league champions languishing in eighth place in the table.

The club’s management hope Dalic’s experience of working in Saudi Arabia will help them return with better results even though Al Ain have lost all their six games played in Saudi Arabia in the ACL.

Dalic moved to Saudi Arabia to take charge of Al Faisaly in 2010/11 and qualified them to the King Cup in the Saudi Professional League. Crossing over to Al Hilal, he led that club to the Saudi Prince Cup in 2012/2013.

Ittihad are unbeaten at home against clubs from the Emirates in the continental championship with three wins and two draws in five games. The Saudi giants’ overall home record in the competition is an impressive 26 wins and three defeats in 34 games.

They are also in fine fettle, having reached the quarter-finals of the King Cup after a 5-3 extra-time win over Al Nahdah on Saturday, and are sixth in the Saudi Pro League, more than 30 points behind leaders Al Nassr.

However, they go into the match against Al Ain after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Tractor Sazi of Iran, who went down to 10 men, two weeks ago.

For Al Ain, the good news is playmaker Omar Abdulrahman is back from a knee injury that kept him out for more than a month. He may be included in the lineup if he successfully passes a fitness test this morning. His presence would add more creativity to Al Ain’s attack.

apassela@thenational.ae

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