Published: Monday September 12, 2016
Abu Dhabi: It’s a do-or-die game for Al Ain when they take on Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent in the second leg of the AFC Champions League quarter-finals at the Bunyodkor Stadium on Tuesday. The action starts at 6pm.
Al Ain got themselves into this precarious situation after they squandered plenty of scoring opportunities and allowed Tashkent to salvage a vital goalless draw in the first leg at home.
However, Dalic and his team have been in tight spot in the previous round against Iraq’s Zobahan as well but they had shown lot of grit then. After being held to a 1-1 draw in their own backyard, Al Ain handed the Iraq side a 2-0 thrashing to advance into the quarters.
Coach Zlatko Dalic will be hoping that his wards would draw inspiration from that outing to get across the line. The major worry for Dalic has been his striker’s inability to get the ball into the back of the net. They had ran out of ideas once inside the box and hopefully, Dalic would have managed enough time with his foreign recruits and ironed out those creases.
Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla and Ibrahim Diaky were wayward and both need to be at the top of their game and fire if Al Ain has to fancy their chances of making it to the semis.
“We are entering the match against Lokomotiv with just one purpose — to beat the opponent. This will require strong and focused performance and our opponents will also have the same ambitions,” said Dalic on the eve of the encounter.
The first leg match was also the maiden outing for Al Ain’s new Brazilian recruit Caio. The 22-year-old showed promise but his 83-minute stay on the field couldn’t reap dividends for Al Ain.
The purple brigade fans will be hoping that Caio would have settled down nicely in the team by now and would show the renowned Brazilian magic to see his side through.
“Caio is a young, aspiring player with a will and hunger to win. He did not train adequately with his colleagues during the early stages of preparation. I think he will be able to achieve personal goals and fulfil the ambitions of the Ain fans,” said Dalic.
Star playmaker Omar Abdul Rahman’s form is never in doubt and hopefully, he will not be sparing anything to make sure that the forwards are fed well with his defence splitting through balls.
Korean Lee Myung-joo will also be figuring in his last match in Al Ain colours before joining the former AFC Champions League winners from Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers. He will be keen to sign off on a high.
Al Ain, however, will be missing the services of Mohamed Ahmed, injured during the World Cup qualifiers match against Australia and Mohamed Fayez with bookings.
“These players will be missed but we are not looking for any excuses. Our duty is to win and get those points that can see us through,” said Croatian, who will have to be wary of Lokomotiv captain Timur Kapadze, who had a huge influence in the defence in his side’s goalless draw in sweltering conditions.
Lokomotiv coach Andrey Miklyaev speaking about his team said: “Omar Abdul Rahman is the danger man for us but Al Ain is a good unit overall. We are ready for the challenge and we will not rush a deal with patience to ensure we qualify for the next stage.”