x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE's Al Nasr and Baniyas focus on good first impression on ACL debut

Captain Diaky says Al Jazira players have promised to play 'every game like a final' this year. Sports round-up audio

Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas coach, will adopt a cautious approach to his side’s debut in the Asian Champions League.
Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas coach, will adopt a cautious approach to his side’s debut in the Asian Champions League.

After ending their long wait for a domestic title last season, Ibrahim Diaky, the Al Jazira captain, said his team are now hungry for success on the continental stage.

Jazira, who won the Pro League and President's Cup double after finishing runners-up in the league for three successive years, start their fourth consecutive Asian Champions League campaign with an away game against Nasaf, the runners-up in the Uzbekistan league last season, in Qarshi tonight.

The Abu Dhabi team have struggled in the continental competition, with just one win in 18 matches, but Diaky promised it will be different this year.

"The players, we have made a promise to ourselves that we will treat every [ACL] game like a final," Diaky said. "We have been improving as a team every season and after the league and cup double, the Champions League is now at the top of our ambitions.

"We want to achieve something on the continental level now and we have all the credentials; we just need to be a little patient and stay focused."

Despite their difficulties in the Pro League, Baniyas are also confident of making a good impression in Asia as they make their Champions League debut tonight at home against Al Arabi of Qatar.

"We want to make sure we make a good start," said Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas coach. "This is our first time in Asia and we are not going to make any tall claims; we will take one match at a time, play our best football and see how we go.

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"What we can assure our fans is that we will try our best to leave a good impression of UAE football. We have been going through a difficult time this season, but this is a new competition and we can make a fresh start."

The two other UAE clubs in the fray, Al Nasr and Al Shabab, play tomorrow. Nasr, who are also making their debut in Asia, travel to Isfahan, Iran, for their Group C opener against Foolad Sepahan while Shabab will host Al Gharafa of Qatar.

"We would love to win the title, but that would be an unrealistic target," said Abdulla Moosa, the Nasr goalkeeper and captain. "Our goal is to leave a good impression of Al Nasr in our first appearance and gain experience of playing against the top teams."

Shabab are making their second appearance in Asia and Adel Abdullah, the captain, is hoping they can reach the knockout stages.

"Our Gulf Club Championships win has increased our ambitions," Abdullah said. "We are want more success at the regional and continental level now, especially since we believe this team has all the elements to succeed."