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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Zoran Mamic: Al Ain will 'fight to the end' to overturn Asian Champions League tie against Al Duhail

Garden City club travel to Doha for the return fixture having lost 4-2 at home last week

Al Ain captain Omar Abdulrahman, centre, in action against Al Duhail in the first leg of their last-16 Asian Champions League tie. Karim Sahib / AFP
Al Ain captain Omar Abdulrahman, centre, in action against Al Duhail in the first leg of their last-16 Asian Champions League tie. Karim Sahib / AFP

Al Ain will fight until the end to keep alive their Asian Champions League hopes when they take on Al Duhail on Tuesday, according to manager Zoran Mamic.

The Garden City club, still the only Emirati side to win the continent’s premier club competition, face a difficult task against the Qatar champions in Doha. Trailing 4-2 on aggregate in their last-16 clash following last week’s disappointing defeat at home, Mamic’s men need to score at least three goals if they are to advance to the quarter-finals. At one stage, Al Ain were 4-0 down in the tie.

What is more, the victory at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium extended Duhail’s 100 per cent record in this season’s Champions League. Having already topped their group with full points, Djamel Belmadi's side became only the second team to open their campaign with seven successive wins.

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Read more:

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'Everything is possible': Al Ain down but not out of ACL contention, says Mamic

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Yet Al Ain will take heart from their strong away record in Asia. The UAE champions are unbeaten on the road this year, and triumphed 4-1 the last time they played in Doha – in last month’s Group D finale at Al Rayyan. The same result on Tuesday would book Al Ain’s place in the quarter-finals.

“OK, we did it last month, but Duhail are a better team than Al Rayyan,” Mamic said. “Like I have said before, everything is possible. We will try to do our best and we have to fight until the end. Then only after the game we can talk about what has happened.

“Ninety minutes in football, everything is possible. We will give whatever we can. Duhail are a good team, they showed in the first game that they have big quality. But Al Ain will be much better in the second game than in the first. We have more time to prepare for this match. I’m sure Al Ain will try to do what maybe now looks impossible because, again, everything is possible.”

Mamic has been boosted by the return of centre-back Mohanad Salem and Egyptian midfielder Hussein El Shahat. The pair, key to Al Ain's chances of flipping the tie, missed the first leg through suspension.

However, the 2003 champions will be without winger Caio after the Brazilian was shown a straight red last week for kicking out at an opponent. Meanwhile, Duhail welcome back Brazilian defender Lucas Mendes.

Still, Mamic saw enough in that initial match to be confident of a comeback, especially given how Al Ain rallied in the closing half hour. Substitutes Ahmed Khalil and Ibrahim Diaky scored the goals to half the deficit, but the team spurned another couple of gilt-edged opportunities to reduce further Duhail’s advantage. Nevertheless, it provides Mamic fresh hope.

“Of course,” the Croat said. “The last 25 to 30 minutes from this game shows that we can play against Duhail and that we have quality also. And I’m sure that, from the beginning, we will try to do everything to change the result.”