UAE league and cup champions face Qatari side in first leg of ACL last 16 on Tuesday at their Hazza bin Zayed Stadium
Asian Champions League: Al Ain have no fear of Al Duhail, says Zoran Mamic
Zoran Mamic says Al Ain respect opponents Al Duhail ahead of Tuesday’s Asian Champions League last-16 first leg, but do not fear them.
The UAE double winners, fresh off capturing the President’s Cup on Thursday, host their Qatari counterparts at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. The second leg takes place in Doha next week.
Duhail come into the match as domestic league and cup champions, too, and boast a 100 per cent record this season on the continent having won all six matches in the ACL group stage.
Al Ain finished second in their pool, but sealed a first Arabian Gulf League title in three years with one round to spare and defeated Al Wasl 2-1 in the cup final. It represents the first time in the club’s 50-year history that they secured both titles in the same season.
Asked on Monday if Duhail’s recent success worried him, Mamic countered: “It can be the same question in the opposite way also. We have also made a great season with the double. I’m not scared, but I have lots of respect for Duhail because they have had a great season, they won the double, they played very well in the group stage. But this is only respect.
“We have a very, very good team also. We have lots of quality and have played a very good season. We don’t need to be scared, but respect to every opponent and also to Duhail. We have to try to do our game, our way to play football. It’s similar but I think in our home, in front of our fans, we can make more."
Al Ain will be without Egyptian midfielder Hussein El Shahat and defender Mohanad Salem through suspension. Other than that, they have a full squad to choose from, including in-form striker Marcus Berg. The Swede has registered seven goals thus far in this season’s Champions League – joint-best in the competition.
Mamic rejected talk that his players are feeling the effects of a lengthy campaign and title celebrations, as Al Ain seek to take an advantage into the return fixture to help clear their path towards quarter-finals later this year.
“Of course, it’s better to work when you win, when you take trophies," Mamic said. "OK, it’s the end of the season, but we’ve two big games in front of us. It’s two big games, a big competition and every one of us wants to be successful in this.
“I don’t see the problem from the long season. I’m happy it’s coming to the end, but after the second leg we think about vacation. Now we think only about how to play this game, how we win this game and how we pass the very strong opponent.
“Duhail has a lot of good players, that’s why Al Ain has to be at a high level to make a good match. We want to go to the next round and will do everything for the victory. Tomorrow is the first half at our home and we want to try to make the result that helps us in the second game. But it will not be decided tomorrow. It will be decided after the second game.”