Fresh from their recent success in the prestigious Qatar Cup, El Jaish are brimming with confidence as they take on Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in the Asian Champions League today.
With 10 points from five matches, El Jaish are already assured of the top place in Group D, but Al Ahli will have everything to play for as they target a spot in the last 16 by finishing second.
For that to happen, however, the Saudi giants, who have six points from five matches, will have to beat El Jaish and also hope UAE’s Al Ain don’t defeat Uzbekistan’s Nasaf in the other Group D fixture today.
As things stand now, Al Ain, Al Ahli and Nasaf are all in the race for the second spot, but El Jaish coach Sabri Lamouchi was in no mood for any concessions on the eve of the match yesterday.
“It will be definitely a hard match,” said Lamouchi. “We are up against one of the best teams in Saudi Arabia, who have recently won the league title. However, we are ready for anything and hopefully the team will be ready for the match.
Lamouchi added that despite already wrapping up their spot in the knockouts, El Jaish won’t be stepping off the accelerator.
“We achieved the first step which was qualifying from the group but this will not stop us from trying to win the match. We want to continue our good performances and hopefully we can get the three points tomorrow,” he said.
Al Ahli will be without injured midfielder Waleed Bakshwn who suffered a ligament injury in training last week although the blow has been softened by the return from suspension of Fahad al-Yamani.
“El Jaish are a strong team and they have a good coach but we will be giving our best as this is the last match for us in the group stage,” said Al Ahli coach Christian Gross. “We are playing against a good side who have already secured their place in the knockout stage.
“We will try to play with the best formation possible. The match will not be easy because we are playing against a team who recently won a title in Qatar. I hope that we will put in a strong performance and get the necessary three points.”
Meanwhile, Mohamed Abdulrahman is expected to return to the starting line-up for Al Ain’s must-win meeting with Uzbekistan’s Nasaf.
Attacking midfielder Abdulrahman has yet to score in the group stage and missed the 1-1 draw between the teams in Uzbekistan on Matchday Five due to suspension but will be available after serving a one-game ban.
Al Ain are in second place in Group D on seven points and just one point ahead of third placed Al Ahli from Saudi Arabia with Nasaf, harbouring their own slim ambitions to advance, a further point adrift.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us because we must get the three points in order to get the second ticket from the group,” said coach Dalic, whose team lost 3-2 against Fujairah in the domestic league on Friday.
“The draw in the previous [ACL] match [against Nasaf] gave us an important point because it was against a strong team. We have prepared well for and hopefully we can score early tomorrow in order to control the match. We need to play with good organisation in order to achieve our target, which is the three points.”
Nasaf are bottom of the group but, with five points from their first five games in the group stage of this year’s competition, are only two points behind Al Ain and coach Ruziqul Berdiev is setting his sights on victory against the 2003 winners.
“We know the weaknesses and strengths of our opponents. They are a good side and we respect them because they are one of the strongest teams in the UAE,” said Berdiev. “The match will be very hard but we will be fighting in order to achieve our target.
“We came here with only one thing on our minds and that is to win the match and qualify. We know that the match will not be easy because we are playing against a strong team and in front of their fans. But we are hoping that we will put in a strong performance and get the three points.”
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