Manager of UAE football club says there is plenty of familiarity as both teams have played against each other on several occasions.
Zoran Mamic: Al Ain know what to expect against Al Hilal in ACL quarter-finals
Al Ain manager Zoran Mamic says his side understand exactly what faces them in the Asian Champions League against Al Hilal on Monday.
The Garden City club, runners-up last year, host their Saudi rivals at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in the first leg of the quarter-final clash - a match that pits two of the most celebrated teams in West Asia.
Al Ain know their opponents well having met Hilal at the semi-final stage in 2014, when they were defeated 4-2 on aggregate. They did, however, win the second leg at home. Hilal went on to lose the final to Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers.
Mamic is familiar with Hilal, too, after managing fellow Riyadh club Al Nassr before taking the reins at Al Ain in February. Two months before that, he led Nassr to a 2-0 victory against Hilal in the semi-final of the Crown Prince Cup to end their long unbeaten run.
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However, Mamic is not looking to history when he meets Hilal again in Al Ain.
“I don’t think it will make a difference,” he said. “Maybe it helps in some small things because I’ve watched Hilal many, many times, not only the two matches we played against them in the championship and the Crown Prince Cup.
“I’ve watched a lot of this team’s games and I don’t think there are any secrets between these sides. We respect Hilal very much. We know what kind of team they are. They have the same team for the last year and didn’t change too much. They had 27 or 28 games in a row that they don’t lose.
“Al Ain are a different team and we have different qualities, a different kind of players and tomorrow we don’t need to think about what happened six, seven or eight months before.
“We have to concentrate on our job, on our target, on what we have to do on the pitch and I’m sure that all the team will do this in a good way. I’m sure my team will be ready tomorrow to show good quality and to show a good game.”
Mamic said Al Ain, the 2003 Asian champions and still the only UAE team to win the trophy, have no fresh injury concerns, with the starting line-up to include summer signings Marcus Berg and Tsukasa Shiotani. Hilal, meanwhile, are missing two key players in midfield, with Nawaf Al Abed and Nicolas Milesi injured.
Yet Hilal manager Ramon Diaz remains confident his side, domestic-double winners last season, can get a result to take back to the second leg on September 11.
“We respect Al Ain because they are one of the biggest teams in Asia,” he said. “We have enough quality to make up for our absences. We will not play for the draw. We expect a good match befitting of the two teams.”