El Jaish coach Sabri Lamouchi has stressed his side deserve to be in the semi-finals of the 2016 AFC Champions League as they prepare to take on former champions Al Ain in the first leg of their last four encounter today evening.
The Qatari side saw off Al Nasr from the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals in controversial circumstances after being awarded a 3-0 win following the annulment of the first leg due to the fielding of an ineligible player.
A 1-0 win in the second leg in Dubai secured the result for Lamouchi’s side and they are now setting their sights on reaching the final for the first time in the club’s history.
“We deserve to be here now and hopefully we can continue on our way towards the final of the competition,” said Lamouchi. “We face a strong team with good players but we have a good team as well and we are ready for the match.”
The two teams have already met in this year’s competition, with El Jaish winning both encounters in the group stages as they started the tournament in impressive fashion with striker Romarinho in particularly stand-out form.
El Jaish have since added former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita to their line-up and Lamouchi will also have Lucas Mendes available for the first leg after he missed the previous game against Al Nasr due to suspension.
Despite those win earlier in the competition, Lamouchi knows the results count for nothing as the two teams prepare to battle it out for a place in the final against either Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors or FC Seoul, both of Korea Republic.
“We know Al Ain very well and they have great history in the AFC Champions League,’ said Lamouchi of the inaugural tournament winners. “I know that we are a strong side and they have never lost twice in the competition in the same week, which means that we should be expecting a tough match.
“We have previously defeated them but things now will be harder because they now know how we play and things will not be easy. I’m very confident that our players will be able to get a positive result in the two matches.”
‘Jaish easier opponent’
Meanwhile Zlatko Dalic believes his Al Ain side will have a less troublesome route to the final due to the Qatari club’s unfamiliarity with the two-time finalists from the United Arab Emirates.
El Jaish saw off Al Nasr from the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals with a 4-0 aggregate win earlier in the month, and the Croatian coach is pleased his team will not have to face Al Ain’s rivals from Dubai in the semi-finals today evening.
“The match against El Jaish will be very hard for us, but things would have been harder for us had Al Nasr qualified for the semi-finals because they know us very well,” said Dalic. “Both sides have a lot of ambition in the semi-finals as we both want to go to the final.
“I hope that we will be lucky in the match tomorrow so that we can have a good win that will help us before the second leg. We are now close to achieving our target, but at the same time things will be tough if we don’t get a positive result.”
Al Ain qualified for the semi-finals with a 1-0 aggregate win over Lokomotiv Tashkent of Uzbekistan that was secured thanks to an impressive performance in the away leg following a 0-0 draw on home soil.
Despite Dalic’s comments, the two teams have met in the competition already this season, with El Jaish winning both of their encounters in the group stages as Al Ain made a lacklustre start to the competition.
But the coach, who will welcome back Mohammed Fayez after he missed the second leg against Lokomotiv due to suspension, does not believe those matches will have any bearing on the outcome of the last four meeting.
“These two matches are very important and we are meeting a strong side against whom we lost twice before,” he said. “But things now should be different because we are at a critical stage of the competition and we should avoid any mistakes if we want to qualify for the final.”
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