x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gallo wants everything from Al Ain in bid to survive relegation

The relegation-threatened nine-time champions face unbeaten Pro League winners Al Jazira and are in need of maximum points.

Alexandre Gallo is demanding a strong performance from his Al Ain side tonight.
Alexandre Gallo is demanding a strong performance from his Al Ain side tonight.

ABU DHABI // Alexandre Gallo, the Al Ain coach, has called for a maximum effort from his players to take three points from unbeaten Al Jazira as the spotlight on the penultimate night of the Pro League falls on their match at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.

"We are playing the best team in the league but that doesn't worry us because we are in a situation where we have to win to survive relegation," said the Brazilian, who took charge of the struggling side in January.

"This is the biggest game for us and my players are aware of the consequences and will draw all their strength to win the three points.

"It is true Jazira are unbeaten so far, but the hunger for us to win from them is even greater. We are not worried about other results but we must win and my players are ready for that."

Omar Abdulrahman, the Al Ain midfielder, added: "This match is bigger than a final for us. We have never been in this situation before. It is a pressure game for us and we will do all we can to win."

The Football Association early this week imposed a two-game home-match ban on Al Ain following bad behaviour by their fans during a home game versus Al Wasl on May 20. The FA's disciplinary committee said fans had verbally abused a Wasl player.

However, the club appealed the penalty, and the appeal will not be heard until Saturday. Thus, tonight's match will go ahead at Al Ain's ground as scheduled. Playing on their home patch will come as some relief for Al Ain as they will be without two key players: the Ivorian midfielder Brahima Keita, who sits out after being sent off in the last game with Kalba, and Ismail Ahmed, the central defender, who serves a one-match ban for three yellow cards.

Al Ain are two points above the drop zone, and a defeat to Jazira and a win for Kalba against Dubai on tonight could send the nine-time league champions tumbling down the ladder to second last with only one match to play, away to Al Shabab. Carlo Nohra, chief executive of the Pro League, earlier this season said relegation of the most decorated side in the country would be a shock.

"Given the stature of the club, it would be a major blow," he said. "It would not be the end of the world, and they would bounce back quickly, but you don't want to lose a Liverpool or an Arsenal from the league, and in our league, Al Ain represents that. They are arguably the biggest club in the UAE."

Kalba bounced back from a 6-2 defeat to Jazira to edge out 10-man Al Ain 4-3 on Saturday and keep their hopes alive in the top-flight competition.

They play Dubai, who can also seal their place in next season's Pro League with a home victory tonight.

Jazira are two games from becoming the first top-flight team to finish a season unbeaten.

Meanwhile, the battle for the remaining Asian Champions League berths intensifies with five teams vying for the remaining three places.

apassela@thenational.ae